The king has reclaimed his crown.
Reigning Horse of the Year Mufhasa put a frustrating 12 months behind him with a dominant win in the $200,000 Group I Fully Fledged Classic (1600m) at Otaki yesterday.
The bold black galloper recorded his first victory for more than a year when he led all the way against a high quality field.
Mufhasa won six races last season but till yesterday his best result as a five-year-old, from seven attempts, had been a second at Hastings in August.
There had been encouraging signs when he finished third in the Waikato Sprint at Te Rapa last month and he stepped up another notch yesterday.
But while Mufhasa returned to his best, the pretender to his throne, rising star Wall Street, finished second last after being trapped three wide in a fast-run race.
Mufhasa's win was an emotional moment for his connections, with owner David Archer describing it as the "most exciting" win of the horse's career.
"We just love him so much, he's a very special horse," Archer said. "It's such a treat to see him come back like that, when so much has been dealt to him over the last 12 months.
"I don't usually get emotional when he wins, but I said that if he won today, I would probably have a tear in my eye," Archer said, in a trembling voice, as he rubbed his eyes.
"This was his last chance this season and it's been his most gratifying win. And I have to say that dozens of people had told us that they were hoping to see the horse win again and that means a lot."
Mufhasa's return to form also means that he might make an appearance at the Sydney autumn carnival.
"We will get him home and see how he is and what David [Archer] wants to do," trainer Stephen McKee said.
"There's nothing more for him here [in New Zealand] but we could look at something in Sydney. Probably a race like the All-Aged Stakes rather than the Doncaster." The A$300,000 All-Aged Stakes (1400m) will be run at Randwick on April 24.
McKee, who also won the corresponding Otaki race last year, with Culminate, never lost faith in Mufhasa. "I had thought he was close to his best for his last three or four starts but his last 13 starts have been in Group I races and they are all tough."
Regular rider Sam Spratt was also excited by Mufhasa's performance. "That was the best he has felt this season, by a country mile," Spratt said. "He was really travelling on the turn and felt like his old self.
"This horse and the Archer family have been so good to me. David was thanking me for sticking with the horse but I could never got off him. How could I, after what he's done for me."
Spratt won a host of big races last term but yesterday's win was her first Group I triumph this season.
Riccarton galloper Hold It Harvey produced a big effort for second, without seriously threatening the winner, with Daffodil a creditable third. Daffodil was backing up after winning over 1100m the previous weekend and hit the line well.
Vosne Romanee, who had not raced since Boxing Day, finished on solidly for fourth and will be a big threat when he steps up to a middle distance in the New Zealand Stakes at Ellerslie .
Wall Street was a $2 favourite but had a horror run at his weight-for-age debut. He was three wide and in the open all the way and had little chance of getting into the finish, with Mufhasa recording 1:32.87, which was close to the track record.
"We had planned to ride him back but he jumped so well and I couldn't get in," rider Buddy Lammas said.
"He was also keen all the way and had just done too much."
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