Feature race celebrations continued for the Adam Durrant trained Texan ($2.40) today, with the 5yo Stratum gelding holding off a brave challenge from seasoned galloper Werd to win the Birthday Stakes 1200m in the final Belmont feature race for the season.

Backing up from a stunning all the way win in the Hannan’s HCP back in September, it came as no surprise when hoop Peter Knuckey shot his mount forward again today in search of a repeat performance – and again the pair would be forced to dig deep to collect the chocolates. Although most leaders had fared well in the earlier races on the program, there was always going to be more than one leading prospect in the Birthday Stakes, and Texan found its fair share of challengers from the outskirts.

Bursting out of barrier four at the rate of knots, Texan found the lead – just – as Werd ($9.00) positioned outside the leader throughout to set up a thrilling final dash to the line. Swinging the final bend, Werd laid down the gauntlet, leveling up to Texan, as favourite punters momentarily slipped into cardiac arrest. But Werd “hit the wall” at the 200m, seeming to have peaked on its run, allowing Texan to have one last lunge at the line. And lunge it did – scoring by ¾ length in an exciting finish.

Grand Nirvana ($6.00) battled away for third 2 ½ lengths behind the pacemakers. Playing God ($4.40) – following a solid trial win, settled at the rear of the field and failed to produce – finishing last, the 62kg impost literally nailing the horse to the ground.

The feature win brought up a riding double for Knuckey, who had saluted earlier aboard the raging favourite Travinator ($1.18) in the opener.

Texan has recorded an impressive 9 wins and 6 placing’s from its 19 career starts, with prize money eclipsing $300,000.

Chris Blackwell