The 2016 Melbourne Cup is the long-term goal for De Little Engine and trainer Danny O’Brien believes that he will get an idea whether the progressive stayer could be competitive in ‘the race that stops a nation’ after he runs in the 2015 Sandown Cup.
De Little Engine started his 2015 Spring Racing Carnival campaign with a sixth place finish in the Spring Is The Season Handicap (1700m) at Flemington on September 12 and he produced credible efforts in the Group 3 The Bart Cummings (2520m) at Flemington on October 4 and the Group 3 Geelong Cup (2400m) on October 21 before he returned to winning form with a strong staying effort in the Bart Cummings Tribute Handicap (2800m) at Flemington on Melbourne Cup Day.
O’Brien admits that De Little Engine will still need to improve on his Bart Cummings Tribute Handicap performance to beat the likes of The Offer, Grand Marshal and Almoonqith in the 2015 Sandown Cup, but he is still hopeful that the son of Encosta De Lago has the scope to develop into a Melbourne Cup runner in 12 months’ time.
“No doubt the top three are a class above what anything else in the race has shown and quite rightly they all come out of the Melbourne Cup,” O’Brien told News Limited.
“I’m mindful this horse has had a very busy 12 months, so he may have a quiet autumn and then hopefully come back and find a couple of lengths next spring and win another race further up the tree.
“We’ll get a guide tomorrow if he beats these horses, albeit getting five or six kilos off them.
”At the moment he’s probably about a No. 35 horse for the Melbourne Cup, so you’ve got to jump a dozen of them just to get into the field and then on the day you’ve got to beat 23 others.
“He’s a fair way off it, but he keeps improving his ranking so we will see.”
De Little Engine has the chance to record a maiden win at black-type level in the Sandown Cup after previously finishing second in the Listed Galilee Series Final (2400m) last year and third in the Listed Bagot Handicap (2800m) on New Year’s Day.
De Little Engine is currently available at 2015 Sandown Cup odds of $5 with Ladbrokes and he is locked in a battle for favouritism with Almoonqith ($5).