In-form galloper Dark Eyes will be looking at 2400m for the first time when he steps out in the Listed $300,000 Ladbrokes Mornington Cup at Mornington on Saturday.
The Ladbrokes Mornington Cup is the feature race on the nine event program that carries Metropolitan status and the winner will be exempt from the ballot for the 2017 Group 1 $3m Caulfield Cup (2400m) run at Caulfield in October during the Melbourne Spring Carnival.
Tulloch Lodge co-trainer Adrian Bott said that the decision was made to step Dark Eyes up to the 2400m after the four year old was strong at the end of 2000m when he won the Listed $200,000 Canberra Cup at Canberra on March 5.
“He’s just a horse in good form and racing consistently and I think it’s the right race to give him the opportunity in,” Bott told AAP.
“This race wasn’t always on the radar.”
“The big test for the horse was the Canberra Cup in terms of the distance at that sort of grade.
“He saw it out really well. It was a strongly run race and he was very tough at the finish, and strong through the line, so that gave us the confidence to step him up in trip.
“It looks a nice race for him down there and there’s some good prize money on offer for the owners.”
Dark Eyes has worked his way up through the grades this preparation and is the winner of three of his last four starts over 1900m and twice over 2000m.
Bott, who trains in partnership with Gai Waterhouse, has reported that Dark Eyes has pulled up well after his Canberra Cup win and had a look at running the Melbourne way of going with a gallop at Moonee Valley on Monday.
“He worked at Moonee Valley on Monday and had a good gallop that way of going,” Bott said.
Dark Eyes has drawn barrier two with Stephen Baster in the saddle and is well in contention in the betting for the Ladbrokes Mornington Cup at $8.50 with Ladbrokes.com.au who have the English stayer The Gold Trail as the $2.60 favourite.
Also under the $10 mark in the market order is the Lindsay Park trained Boom Time at $8.50 and John O’Shea’s Tally at $9.50.
English trainer Charlie Appleby had plenty of success with his stayers during the 2016 Melbourne Spring Carnival and is looking for another win on Australian Soil with The Gold Trail.
Appleby’s travelling foreman James Ferguson has reported that The Gold Trail was settled into his new surrounding well and will be very competitive in the Ladbrokes Mornington Cup.
“He’s in peak condition and if he can put in a performance anything like his wins at his last two starts then he should be very competitive,” Ferguson said.