De Little Engine is proving to be a giant killer.
The four-year-old who was laughed at by staff at Danny O’Brien’s stable as being too small on arrival, landed his third straight victory in the Bitalli Handicap (2520m) at Flemington on Saturday.
The victory has paved the way for De Little Engine to earn a crack at the Listed Bagot Handicap (2800m) at Flemington on New Year’s Day.
A drifter from $2.35 to $2.90, De Little Engine was too strong in holding off Rodway ($6.50) by a half length.
Winning rider James Winks also steered the gelding in a Listed race at Caulfield in April and said he’s improved a lot since finishing second in the Galilee Series Final.
“He’s good at what he does and that’s stay,” Winks said.
“There’s no brilliance about him.”
O’Brien said the Bagot would determine whether De Little Engine could be aimed at better races.
He admitted the gelding was there to be beaten at the 200m mark but stayed on, a feature of this two previous wins.
“We’ve always kept a little in the tank to have him spot on for the Bagot,” O’Brien said.
“To be fair he’s won a (Benchmark) 70, a 78 and an 84, so it’s hard to get too far ahead of ourselves.
“We’ve given him every chance to turn up in the Bagot in really good shape.
“If he had a soft win in that sort of grade then you could think maybe he could make a progression into something bigger than these summer races.”
The David Hayes and Tom Dabernig combination are also looking to greater riches following their winning double with Claudia Jean and Churchill Dancer.
Claudia Jean is heading to the Gold Coast for the Magic Millions while Churchill Dancer is likely to be back for the Group Three Standish Handicap at Flemington on January 1.
Apprentice Tom Sadler incurred a nine meeting careless riding suspension aboard Hunter Island in the Skipton Handicap and is out from midnight on Sunday and can return on January 1.