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'Stable favourite' gives Cairns her chance to go back-to-back in Bush final

By Kobie O'Brien

2018 Battle of the Bush winning trainer Olivia Cairns will be back to defend her title at Eagle Farm on June 22 after Stellar Knight ran down The Greatest in a thrilling finish to Saturday’s Home Hill qualifier.

Both horses looked as though they would fight it out on paper and that’s how the race panned out.

Jockey Ashley Butler timed his run perfectly on Stellar Knight to edge away from race favourite The Greatest to claim victory by one length.

The pair gapped the rest of the field with third-placed Lollipop Rocket a further 5.75 lengths back.

It was quite a dramatic turn-around in form for the classy Stellar Knight, who won this race last year before finishing seventh to stablemate Mason’s Chance in the Battle of the Bush final at Doomben.

Having been beaten 11.95 lengths and 19.7 lengths respectively in his last two starts, it was tremendous effort to get Stellar Knight back in the winner’s circle.

John Manzelmann’s The Greatest proved a worthy contender after closing well to be beaten just 1.75 lengths the start before.

At Charleville, It was a deserved win for Craig Smith’s Malibu Affair.

The five-year-old gelding capping off a string of six-consecutive placings. Incredibly, the horse has placed at 11 of 13 runs since joining Smith’s stable.

Malibu Affair fought off a strong challenge by the handy Gendebien to win by 0.4L, with Hanover Square running on well for third.

Fab’s Cowboy form looks daunting for all challengers in the final.

Malibu Affair was beaten by four-lengths in the Gladstone qualifier by the Bevan Johnson trained gelding prior to his all the way effort at Charleville. He will get his chance to turn the tables when they meet in the June final at Eagle Farm.

Strong fields are expected for this weekend’s qualifiers at Cunnamulla, Thangool and Nanango as we get down to the business end in the 2019 TAB Battle of the Bush series.