Steel Prince has won an eerily-quiet Geelong Cup in a narrow finish ahead of stablemate Le Don De Vie.
The horses galloped in front of perhaps the smallest crowd in the cup’s 148-year history on Wednesday amid COVID-19.
Only trainers, jockeys, officials, owners and select Geelong Racing Club staff were onsite without the punters, marquees and fashions on the field that normally accompany the race.
Usually 12,000 or more spectators line the hills and stands of Geelong Racecourse to cheer the horses on in the 2400-metre race.
Jockey Jye McNeil rode Steel Prince for the victory, which has booked the seven-year-old a place in the Melbourne Cup.
The horse finished ninth in the race that stops the nation last year and trainers Anthony and Sam Freedman will be hoping he can complete the Geelong-Melbourne double.
“He was too strong today,” Sam said after the race.
“Credit to this horse, he is incredible. He has obviously been around a while and he keeps turning up.
“I said to Jye, ‘If you’re right there at the top of the straight, he is a horse that loves a dogfight’.
“He’s riding at the top of his game at the moment and he gets on really well with this horse. He’s ridden him really nicely in previous starts.”
Three Geelong Cup winners, Media Puzzle (2002), Americain (2010) and Dunaden (2011), have completed the double in the past two decades.
Prince of Arran won the Geelong Cup in 2019 before finishing second in the Melbourne Cup.
The win in Wednesday’s group 3 Geelong Cup shortened Steel Prince’s odds from about $51 to win the Melbourne Cup to $26.
King Of Leogrance placed third.