Tulloch Lodge three-year-old Just Thinkin' has defied all challengers to win the Dulcify Stakes at Rosehill while Castelvecchio and Shadow Hero have turned in eye-catching performances behind him.
Coming off a maiden win at Warwick Farm, Just Thinkin' ($9.50) took up the running for Tim Clark and responded well when challenged by Subedar ($9) to hold off the Godolphin horse by a long neck.
Shadow Hero ($21) charged home to grab third another 1-3/4 lengths away, just ahead of $5 fav Castelvecchio who made a sustained run down the outside from near-last.
Co-trainer Adrian Bott was taken with the tough nature of Just Thinkin's win and said while the track appeared to be suiting on pace horses on Saturday, there was serious merit in his performance.
"That always helps but don't take anything away from the win, it's a strong performance," Bott said.
"He responded well under pressure and while the conditions help, he's done it all himself."
"He's a tough horse and he'll continue to improve going up further in trip.
"He'll go to the Gloaming, head towards the Spring Champ and then potentially down for the (Victoria) Derby."
Just Thinkin' is a three -quarter brother to Thinkin' Big who Bott and co-trainer Gai Waterhouse produced to win the Gloaming and Norman Robinson Stakes in Melbourne last spring.
Subedar ran an improved race with the addition of blinkers and jockey Kerrin McEvoy said he was still learning and would continue to improve.
Josh Parr was delighted with the return of Listed winner Shadow Hero who, along with Castelvecchio, made up good ground against the pattern of the day.
"Very talented horse and he's going to eat up the ground as he's stepped up in distance," Parr said.
"He was very strong late off a speed that didn't suit a backmarker."
Jay Ford said Castelvecchio didn't travel early but wound up well once he got balanced in the straight and would take significant improvement from the run.
The Group One Champagne Stakes winner has been prominent in Golden Rose calculations but trainer Richard Litt will confer with the colt's owners before deciding where he goes next.
"Against the bias, he ran really good. It was a leader-dominated race, he flew home well, he did everything right and today's not his grand final," Litt said.
"Now we just have to make a decision where we go from here, we've got some good options."