Trainer Nigel Blackiston believes that Outback Joe is good enough to compete at Group 1 level in the Sydney Cup after recording a strong win in the Listed Bagot Handicap (2800m) at Flemington yesterday.
Outback Joe was ridden by Irish jockey Oisin Murphy, who is in Australia gaining experience with trainer Danny O’Brien, and the rising hoop elected to keep the Elvstroem gelding wide throughout the race rather than get boxed in.
The risky strategy paid dividends for Murphy as Outback Joe was far too good for the rest of the Bagot Handicap field and worked home strongly in the final stages of the race to score a comfortable win from Hurdy Gurdy Man and Angola.
Blackiston was quick to pay credit to the ride on Murphy and was brimming with praise for Outback Joe who he is confident has the ability and the staying credentials to run out a strong 3200 metres.
“This kid, in five years’ time if he stays in England he’ll be the leading rider,” Blackiston told Racing Victoria after the race.
“He’s come over here for experience and he caught my eye when I first saw him rider and I was lucky enough to use him.
“I’ve always had faith in this horse getting out to the 2800 metres and he’ll get the two miles eventually where I think you’ll see an even better horse.
“He’s taken time and some of these stayers do but he’s a work in progress and you’ve got to be patient.”
The Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m) during The Championships and Group 3 Adelaide Cup (3200m) in March are both on the agenda for Outback Joe but Blackiston said he may elect to take the progressive stayer to Tasmania in February for a crack at the Hobart Cup (2400m) and Group 3 Launceston Cup (2400m).
“I’m hoping to get to one of the two mile races, whether it’s Adelaide or Sydney but there’s a nice little bonus heading over for the Launceston or Hobart Cups so I’ll talk to Denis (Marks) and take it from there.”
Murphy is expected to return to riding for Master Andrew Balding, who prepares Mackinnon Stakes winner Side Glance, in the United Kingdom at the end of January but is hoping to remain in Australia for a longer period.