Four-year-old gelding De Little Engine looks to have cemented his favouritism in the Listed Bagot Handicap (2800m) after winning the Bitalli Handicap (2540m) on Saturday.
The Bagot Handicap is one of two black-type races running at Flemington Racecourse on New Year’s Day with a prize pool totaling $150,000. It will be De Little Engine’s first black-type race of the season after winning three consecutive Benchmark races and placing in a further two.
De Little Engine justified his favouritism in the Bitalli Handicap, settling fourth on the fence before hoop James Winks pushed forward early in the straight to give the pair every chance at winning. The gelding managed to hold off his rivals over the concluding stages, ultimately defeating Rodway by half a length with Great Lane and Martinvast dead heating for third place.
Winks last rode De Little Engine in the Listed Galilee Series Final (2400m), in which the gelding finished two lengths behind Bring Something in second place. The hoop noted that the four-year-old has only improved since then.
“I rode him eight months ago at Caulfield and gee he has improved since – he is so much more mature,” Winks told TVN.
“He’s good at what he does, he just stays.”
De Little Engine may be a little green in black-type racing but trainer Danny O’Brien is confident the 2800m of the Bagot Handicap is the perfect distance to test the gelding in classier races.
“He looked like he was going to be challenged at the 200-metre mark but he really stayed on well and that’s been a feature of all his wins,” he said.
“He just seems to get stronger the further the race gets.
“His last three wins have been at benchmark 70, 78 and 84 level so it’s hard to get too carried away.
“The Bagot will be a step up in class but hopefully he’ll give it a shake.
“The 2800-metre should be ideal for him.
“If he had a soft win in the Bagot than you could start to think about him making the progression into better races like Vigor and Gallopin did.”
Vigor won the 2009 Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) on just his secdon black-type outing while Gallopin won the Group 2 Airways Cup (2500m) in 2008 after winning the Bagot Handicap earlier that year.