SIEGE Of Quebec drew first blood but Pierata lives to fight another day after they staged a thrilling duel.Only a short head separating them on the line at Royal Randwick with Siege Of Quebec getting the honours in the Group 3 $160,000 Bill Ritchie Handicap (1400m).Connections of both horses can look forward to the Group 1 $1 million Epsom Handicap with confidence.Adrian Bott, who co-trains with Gai Waterhouse, was a relieved man when Siege Of Quebec bounced back from his flop in last week’s Theo Marks Stakes. “I don’t think I’ve ever walked off a racecourse so disappointed as I was after Rosehill last Saturday,’’ Bott said. “We honestly felt very confident in Siege Of Quebec on what he’d shown us on the track but unfortunately we had to put it behind us because the heavy track wasn’t to his liking.“We didn’t have any hesitation in bringing him here; he’s a big, tough colt and last Sunday he didn’t look to have taken any harm. We had full confidence in backing him up.’’Pierata’s trainer Greg Hickman was also far from disappointed despite his stable star’s narrow loss in his first race for five weeks.“We didn’t have a lot of luck today,’’ Hickman said.
“He was three wide without cover all the way and he has been beaten in the very last stride.“If he had drawn a better barrier, he probably wins the race. He’s hasn’t won but he’s run very well.’’Siege Of Quebec ($4.40) collared Pierata ($2.90 favourite) right on the line with early leader Music Magnate ($14) 1½ lengths away third.Bott confirmed Siege Of Quebec will go straight into the Epsom (1600m) at Randwick in a fortnight.“The Epsom has always been the aim for him,’’ Bott said.“I’ve always thought that would be a lovely race for him getting out to the mile as his preferred trip and we see him now as a lightweight chance.“It’s great we have been able to get into the race. He can show us what he’s made of.’’Jockey Tim Clark said Siege Of Quebec had been “flying” until striking the heavy track at Rosehill last week.“This looked a suitable race for him down in the weights,’’ Clark said.“He had a nice run and really knuckled down that last 50m and stuck his head out.”James McDonald, rider of Pierata, said the tough run the four-year-old endured was telling.“He went really good, we just got caught wide but he finished off nice,’’ he said.