Scone trainer Brett Cavanough was excited to test unbeaten Kosciuszko runner Fender in elite company after confirmation from connections on Friday that he would race in the group 2 Theo Marks Stakes (1300m) at Rosehill on Saturday.
Fender was one of two Cavanough-trained gallopers snapped up by slot-holders after Wednesday's ticket draw for the $1.3 million Kosciuszko (1200m) at Randwick on October 17.
Fender has won all four of his starts, including a first crack at Saturday metropolitan benchmark handicap level on August 8 at Rosehill.
With a start guaranteed in the marquee race for country-trained horses, Fender's connections were weighing up his lead-in options, especially after drawing wide in the Theo Marks.
However, Cavanough was pleased the Toronado-Ceccanti four-year-old gelding was getting a chance at group level against the likes of Funstar, Special Reward and Wild Planet.
"His mother was a 1400m, 10 furlongs mare, a good country mare," Cavanough said. "His father was a superstar 1400-miler, and I reckon he wants to train on.
"If we run in this and he runs super, then we can freshen him up for the Kosciuszko.
"But we just want to test him tomorrow, that's the main thing, and learn a bit about him in good company."
Fender was a $21 outsider for the Theo Marks with TAB Fixed Odds but Cavanough believed he could threaten given his early speed in a race lacking natural leaders.
"If you go back to the ratings race last time, there was a heap of speed under him," he said.
"Tomorrow in a group 2, there's only one or two. From the 11 alley, he's going to land there sweet with no weight on his back. And the biggest thing is, I've never been to the bottom of him. I don't know where it is.
"Every time they have put the pedal down, he has found a length, a length and a half."
Only one spot remained in the 14-horse Kosciuszko on Friday after Al Mah Haha was taken.
Cavanough hoped Syd's Footprints, $26 for the Kosciuszko, could push his claims at Dubbo in the showcase plate over 1100m on Sunday.
His other confirmed Kosciuszko runner, Its Me, will next race in the 1000m Highway Handicap at Randwick on Saturday week or in the group 3 Tibbie Stakes (1400m) at Newcastle on Friday.
"It would be good to test her," Cavanough said of the Tibbie.
"There will be three or four good mares and then a half dozen like her trying to be."
Newcastle trainer Kris Lees would have been pleased to hear Fender was running in the Theo Marks.
Lees lamented early on Friday the likelihood that his two-time group 3 winner Special Reward would have to lead because of the lack of speed in the race.
"Special Reward has come on nicely since his first-up third in the Show County [1200m] at Randwick on August 22," Lees told his website.
"I would prefer him not to lead because I feel he is better chasing, but there doesn't appear to be a lot of pace in the Theo Marks and I suspect he will be the leader."
Special Reward was run down late by Roheryn and Probabeel after travelling outside the leader and hitting the front with 300m left in the Show County.
Lees was considering a shot at the group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) for Special Reward on October 3 and potential run in the group 3 Cameron Handicap (1500m) at Newcastle next Friday.
Lees also has Evalina and Zaniah in the group 2 Sheraco Stakes (1200m) on Saturday at Rosehill. Zaniah was first emergency.
While you're with us, did you know the Newcastle Herald offers breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up to date with all the local news - sign up here
- Former Knights lower grade player Joel Dark passes away in hospital after suffering an on-field seizure
- Toohey's News, The Podcast Ep. 27: Michael Ennis
- A-League: Topor-Stanley screamer rewarded as Italian collects player of year gong
- Surfing: Morgan Cibilic weighs up Tweed Coast Pro return
- Aidan Guerra tells Newcastle Knights teammates of his decision to retire at season's end