It may be a year away, but leading trainer Adam Durrant already has one eye on the 2019 Perth Cup with progressive stayer Jackpot Prince.
Last season’s Belmont Classic winner produced an encouraging performance first-up when he was beaten just under three lengths by Woodsville over 1600m on January 1.
Durrant steps the four-year-old up to 2100m tomorrow in the Crown Towers Handicap, and has been supported into $3.20 favouritism with TABtouch.
Durrant said he was excited about the gelding’s future.
“I’m definitely keen on the horse,” he told TABradio’s The Sports Daily.
“There’s certainly an element of improvement to come in him.
“Hopefully he’s going to be racing over the summer carnival next year getting ready for a Perth Cup.”
Jackpot Prince meets a similar field to the one he met on New Year’s Day, including Woodsville, Gunnago and Luke’s Gold, while Toppa Dawozza has his first start since finishing unplaced in the Perth Cup.
Durrant said the three week gap between runs would enhance Jackpot Prince’s chances on Saturday.
“We’ve had three weeks to build on his fitness,” he said.
“We’ve replicated a staying race in between in his workout.
“He will be right in the finish.”
Durrant also saddles up another progressive stayer At The Ready in the Heineken 3 Handicap (2100m) and said the gelding deserved respect.
“If you like Jackpot Prince, you have got to like this bloke,” he said.
“He’s worked with him and eyeballed him every step of the way.
“Not being a big field, it should suit him, and on class in the race and at that price I think he’s my best for the day.”
Meanwhile, Brett Pope is hoping Hoodlum Thunder will strip fitter for his first-up second to Lucky Roar at Pinjarra on January 6, when he tackles the TABtouch Plate (1500m) on Saturday.
Pope said the three-year-old didn’t get the best of luck at Pinjarra, and felt he would be able to turn the tables on Lucky Roar on Saturday.
“He’s going along in leaps and bounds, and his condition is improving,” he said.
“He probably got back a bit in the ruck the other day and they pinched a winning break on him.”
Pope said the gelding would be aimed towards the Group 2 WA Derby (2400m) on April 21.
Another progressive galloper at the Ascot meeting is the Chris Gangemi-trained Shackleton, who is unbeaten from two starts in Perth.
The gelding proved too classy for his rivals at Ascot on December 30, but steps up from mid-week level when he runs in the Glenroy Chaff Handicap (1100m).
Gangemi said Shackleton was ready ahead of his toughest test in Perth so far.
“It’s a big step up in class for him,” he said.
“I couldn’t be happier with him, he drops five kilos and is in good order.”
The first event at Ascot gets underway at 12.48pm.