A special comeback performance from superstar mare Atlantic Jewel left trainer Mark Kavanagh overcome with emotion and relief at Caulfield on Saturday.
Having been off the scene for 16 months, the unbeaten mare left a field of Group One stars in her wake as she careered away to win the Memsie Stakes (1400m) by 2-1/4 lengths after being eased down.
Favourite at $2.20, Atlantic Jewel had been sidelined with a tendon injury and Kavanagh said a massive weight had lifted from his shoulders.
"You've got no idea what's been going on and the pressure that my wonderful staff and the people involved at my farm and everywhere have put on themselves as a team effort to bring this horse back," Kavanagh said.
"The whole of the world was watching this. I did radio interviews for Dubai and England and everything like that. It was massive for me and certainly a massive relief."
Atlantic Jewel's spring warning, which delivered her eighth win from as many starts and third at Group One level, has elevated her to clear-cut Cox Plate favouritism.
Kavanagh also issued his own warning heading into the spring carnival.
"She's got so much improvement in her, it's frightening," he said.
Atlantic Jewel's jockey Michael Rodd was caught three wide early before taking a trail and he kept her in clear running, having the five-year-old ready to strike at the top of the straight before letting her loose from the 250m.
By the time he eased her down, Atlantic Jewel was 2-1/4 lengths clear of Ferlax ($21) on the line with the Kavanagh-trained Super Cool ($17) turning in a pleasing first-up run for third.
"We all know how good she is and the only thing that was going to beat her was bad luck or a bad ride," Rodd said.
The jockey said the race was all over as a contest from as far out as 800m.
"It's an amazing feeling to be on top of her and just to see her put panels on the others so quickly," Rodd said.
It's A Dundeel finished fourth while Melbourne Cup winner Green Moon worked home well for a first-up fifth.