He might be a peculiar shape but Balabushka’s winning photo will take pride of place after he underscored his talent at Geelong on Sunday.

The four-year-old who is having his first campaign since a throat operation, finished full of running to land Sunday’s The Elephant & Castle Maiden Plate (1306m).

A long-barrelled swayed back gelding, Balabushka has a powerful frame and gave jockey Jye McNeil a lovely ride.

Jye didn’t expect to get back as far as he did on Balabushka but had familiarised himself with the horse by watching replays of his recent runs, including his latest when he was badly blocked for run when a forgivable second last at Sandown.

“I was perhaps a bit further back than Jamie (Edwards) wanted in the run but there was good speed to the first turn and the horse always travelled comfortably,” Jye said.

“I did have to sustain a long wide run, but he did it very well.

Balabushka ($3.80) made up eight lengths from mid race and looked set to win easily when he loomed up at the 100m to the Hayes-trained $2.05 favourite Co Co Van Winkle who kicked under pressure.

Jye said Balabushka had to dig deep and in a desperate finish scored by a neck, with former Queenslander Monolink ($5) third.

“He had to earn it as the Hayes horse tried to fight back – it was a good win.”

Balabushka is a brother to recently retired dual stakes winner Corner Pocket, and was diagnosed with a breathing issue after his only run last campaign in March.

“We brought him back and had him sitting up handy in his first two runs, but he didn’t finish off,” Jamie said.

He said Balabushka was more patiently ridden at Sandown last start but the experiment went “pear-shaped” when he got hopelessly stuck in traffic and went to the line untested.

“They ran long up front today which allowed him to sit off them and he hit the line strongly which was what hoped for,” Jamie said.

“That’s the first time he has been ridden back that far and he now looks like he is going to get further.”

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