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Hard work pays off for jockey
Mike Hedge
19:55 AEST Thu Dec 27 2012

Thirty rounds of boxing and half a day in a sauna was the price jockey Ben Melham paid for his Christmas cheer.

But it was all made worthwhile when Secret Liaison survived in a tight photo to win the Listed Lord Stakes (1612m) at Mornington on Thursday.

Melham admitted he had taken a "good day off" on Christmas Day.

On Boxing day, however, he wished he hadn't.

Melham had to shed more than three kilos in a day and a bit to make Secret Liaison's 55kg handicap - and he did it with only a few beads of sweat to spare.

"I spent yesterday boxing with a personal trainer," Melham said.

"We went for 90 minutes or so. Box, have a break, box again. In a sweatsuit."

Melham trimmed the final half kilo away on race morning, arriving at Mornington without having eaten more than a mouthful of food in 36 hours.

But in a driving finish, he still had the strength to push Secret Liaison ($5) to the line a half neck clear of Another Prelate ($12).

White Universe ($5) battled on moderately after having a good run to finish third, another 1-1/4 lengths away.

While Melham undertook extreme physical measures to be ready for the race, a nice rest helped Secret Liaison reveal her best form.

Co-trainer Simon Zahra said the mare had lost interest in racing early in the spring and was sent to owner David Moodie's farm in a bid to reinvigorate her.

"Her form just went missing," Zahra said.

"She'd lost interest, she didn't want to be there."

Secret Liaison had proven her ability early in her career, winning in listed company at her seventh start and running third in the Group Three Adrian Knox Stakes at Randwick.

"We always knew she had talent, it was just a matter of getting it out of her," Zahra said.

"So she went to the farm for 10 days and it turned her around."

Secret Liaison returned to win at Moonee Valley last month and followed with another success at Caulfield and a second at Flemington.

AAP TURF