‘Extra special’ victory

Strong finish: Virtuous Circle, ridden by Ethan Brown, goes to the line strongly to win at Flemington on Saturday. Photo: Ross Holburt/Racing Photos

“This one was extra special” was how elated trainer Liam Howley summed up the last-to-first victory by Virtuous Circle at Flemington on Saturday.

The four-year-old was having his third run since a long spell after his Melbourne Cup effort in November last year.

In the interim Virtuous Circle was gelded and given every opportunity to get back to his best form, which included being runner-up in the 2023 AJC Derby.

From 17 starts, Virtuous Circle has now chalked up $776,200 in stake money.

Howley is not getting carried away with his stable star’s big run in the $150,000 BM100 Rda Daylesford Lesley Hewitt Trophy race.

“We’ll take it one step at a time,” the Macedon Ranges-based trainer said, praising jockey Ethan Brown for “a peach of a ride”.

He said Virtuous Circle had worked really well since running sixth at Flemington on May 18, and he expected a good performance on Saturday.

Brown settled Virtuous Circle at the rear of the field, in direct contrast to his all the way win on imported galloper Why Worry for the stable the previous Saturday.

Virtuous Circle, starting as a $14 chance, was the widest runner making his prolonged run in the straight.

There appeared to be several winning chances over the last 150 metres, but Virtuous Circle maintained his strong run to win by 0.8 lengths from Beltoro.

Howley made it clear he felt some critics of Virtuous Circle’s 22 months without a win were wide of the mark.

He said the galloper had a fantastic group of owners and plenty of supporters, and the team at Howley Racing had done a great job.