Talented galloper Hawks Bay will take a step towards a third Darwin Cup when he contests the Listed Shadwell Stud Stakes at Caulfield on Saturday.
The five-year-old has finished second in the Cup the last two years and trainer Neil Dyer is keen for him to go north again for the 2000-metre feature on August 1.
“He’s been a good horse for us and hopefully there is a long way to go yet,” Dyer said.
“He always manages to earn his keep and I can’t see why anything will change.”
Dyer said it was early days but he was encouraged by Hawks Bay’s first-up four-length eighth to Conservatorium in the Listed Manihi Classic (1200m) at Morphettville on March 26.
“I was very happy with him last start and this week (over 1440m) is just another stepping stone towards getting him up to his right distance,” Dyer said.
Hawks Bay has won at 1100m but his best form is at 1600m and further.
Last spring he won the Murray Bridge Gold Cup (1600m) and was second in the Kyneton Cup (2000m) after Shout Out Loud beat him in a photo-finish in the Darwin Cup.
In 2009 he won the Darwin Guineas (1600m) and Northern Territory Derby (2000m) and ran second to Activation in the Darwin Cup.
“One of the main goals is the Darwin Cup and we are building up to that again,” Dyer said.
“He never puts in a bad run but I wish we had easier options while building him up in distance.
“Because of his rating (99) we didn’t have much choice but to run in these sorts of races like we have on Saturday.”
Hawks Bay is an outsider at $61 with TAB Sportsbet while stakes-winning mares Dubleanny and Lady Lynette head the Shadwell Stakes market at $4.20 and $5 respectively.
Time Matters and Carrara are $6.50.
Dyer is based at Kyneton but for the next month is preparing a nine-horse team in Alice Springs.
Last-start Tatura winner Baby Huey will run in Saturday’s Northern Territory Guineas (1600m) while Palmyra Boy, who has finished fourth in the last two Darwin Cups, is being aimed at his second crack at the Alice Springs Cup (2000m) on May 2.
Last year Palmyra Boy finished sixth in the Cup.