Still A Star's fairytale return to racing at Mowbray on Wednesday almost overshadowed the Launceston Cup.
Having her first start for 12 months, the Bill Ryan-trained mare ran down last year's winner Deroche to take out the $150,000 Vamos Stakes.
The dream comeback ended months of frustration for Ryan and the four-year-old's owners and would have been a sweet result for the thousands of supporters who voted her into next month's $5 million All-Star Mile at Moonee Valley.
One of four winners on the day for top jockey Brendon McCoull, Still Star sat third on the rail before bullocking clear in the straight and going on to score by 3/4 length.
A remarkably composed Ryan admitted it had been "a hell of a long year."
"But it's been worth the wait - she's back and the star is still shining," Ryan said.
"We were going to Melbourne in the spring when she got a lung infection then we were getting her ready for the Bow Mistress when she got an upper respiratory infection.
"But now we're here and, against all odds, she's won."
Ryan said he had been confident in running.
"Brendon had to do a little bit of buffeting to get out but, once he got out, it was all over," the trainer said.
Part-owner Ron Riley, who launched the campaign to get Still A Star into the All-Star Mile, said he was "over the moon."
"That's what I was hoping for but not expecting, to be honest," he said.
"I was worried because 12 months is a long time to have off.
"But Billy and Brendon were both confident."
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