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Avalon gives Douglas Group breakthrough

Clayton Douglas celebrated the first Group race success of his career at Caulfield with Streets Of Avalon holding on in the concluding stages to defeat Manolo Blahniq in the Victoria Handicap (1400m).

Douglas enjoyed tremendous success as a jumps jockey last season but has come of age in the current premiership season, proving he is more than capable of competing at the top level in flat races.

Trainer Shane Nichols was quick to praise the effort of Douglas, who has played an important role in his Mornington stable for several years.

"He was well rated by Clayton Douglas today, he is the real story, he has won his first Group race, he has been with me a long time, it is just terrific to see a young man, who I really admire, who has worked really hard in the game, to win his first Group race," he said.

"He was at the track at 4am this morning riding work, he is riding 56kg, which is light for him, he is riding terrific and I'm just so thrilled for him."

Douglas positioned Streets Of Avalon outside leader Sircconi and controlled the tempo of the race before kicking clear at the top of the straight and holding off favourite Manolo Blahniq by half a neck on the line.

"I can't thank the owners and Shane enough, I've worked for Shane for a long time now, to get the opportunity and to get it done is great," Douglas said.

Manolo Blahniq closed strongly late but just missed and trainer Tony Noonan suggested post-race that he is now likely to travel north to Queensland for the Winter Carnival.

"He probably just wasn't good enough on the day, without making excuses that was his seventh run this prep on firm tracks, that was my worry going in to it, racing on firm ground whether he could back up again," he said.

"I think he raced honestly, they probably stacked up a bit mid-race, which made it a little tougher for us and the winner is a good horse.

"It is disappointing he has lost but he has run well again."
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