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Alligator Blood confirms Cox Plate claims with Underwood triumph

Alligator Blood showed there’s only one way to answer serious questions in Sunday’s Group 1 Underwood Stakes at Sandown.

Was Alligator Blood up to Cox Plate standard?

Was Alligator Blood capable of measuring up at a distance further than 1600m?

The five-year-old produced affirmative answers to both questions with his determined win over 1800m in the Underwood Stakes.

Jockey Tim Clark let Alligator Blood stride early in the $ 1m event, ensuring the Underwood Stakes was run at a fair pace for all runners to the home turn, giving the winner or none of his rivals any excuses.

Last year’s Underwood Stakes winner Zaaki and her jockey Jamie Kah asked the question when pulling alongside Alligator Blood early in the long Sandown Hillside straight.

But Alligator Blood and Clark, riding at Sandown for the first time, provided the definitive answer as Zaaki slightly wilted in the last 50m, with the Annabel Neasham-trained Mo’unga grabbing second placing on the line.

I’m Thunderstruck hit the line well but the $ 2.15 favorite was unable to again deny Alligator Blood a Group 1 win as he did when the pair clashed at Flemington in the Makybe Diva Stakes.

I’m Thunderstruck finished fourth of the six runners, a length from Alligator Blood.

Alligator Blood’s gutsy triumph continued the amazing performance of trainers Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott to get the gelding to two Group 1 wins after the horse returned from potentially career-ending back surgery.

“To take on a quality field and the pressure was put onto him early in the race and I love the way he responded and kept fighting,” Bott said.

“Fantastic win. It was a testing track here today and I expect him to keep finding under pressure over a bit further as well.”

Alligator Blood ridden by Tim Clark wins the Quayclean Underwood Stakes Picture: Scott Barbour

Kah said Zaaki wasn’t at his best second-up after his dominant first-up win in Sydney.

“He was good. He just laid in terribly today. I think he wasn’t just 100 per cent,” Kah said.

TAB cut Alligator Blood’s Cox Plate price from $ 13 to $ 7 while Zaaki eased from $ 4 to $ 6.

Clark said Alligator Blood was ready to do it all again at The Valley on October 22.

“This race, apart from Anamoe, all the big guns were there,” Clark said.

“He’s proven himself over 1800 on a big roomy track like this so 2040 around The Valley, bring it on.”

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