A last-start failure has been brushed off as a minor hiccup by Hawks Bay trainer Neil Dyer who is still plotting a Darwin Cup path for the tough seven-year-old.
The experienced gelding was surprisingly beaten 9 1/2 lengths in the Swan Hill Cup on June 9 when his preparation towards a third straight Darwin Cup victory seemed to be going swimmingly.
Prior to the shock result at Swan Hill, the son of Black Hawk had run home strongly to finish fourth and third in two starts at Flemington.
But rather than be put off by the result, Dyer put it down to a training mistake and is confident his popular galloper can bounce back in the $100,000 David Bourke Provincial Plate (1600m) at Flemington on Saturday.
“He was three weeks between runs at Swan Hill and was recovering from a bit of a setback,” Dyer told Racing Victoria.
“He was probably a bit underdone but we will make sure we don’t make the same mistake again.”
Dyer confirmed Hawks Bay will again make the trip to the top end but how he gets there is still to be decided.
The Kyneton trainer said he will definitely have one further lead-up run after Saturday but will let the horse tell him whether he needs more fine tuning before heading to Darwin.
Hawks Bay is considered a legend in Darwin racing circles, with the gritty gelding producing runner-up finishes in 2009 and 2010 before winning his past two attempts.
This weekend he will carry the topweight of 60.5kg where he faces off against Hobart Cup runner-up The Cleaner.