Huntly Castle will be aimed towards the Group One Victoria Derby this spring after passing a distance test as a late-season two-year-old in the Byerley Handicap at Flemington.
The Byerley (1800m) on the penultimate weekend of the season is the only race restricted to two-year-olds in Melbourne over further than 1600m and carries a ballot exemption for the winner into either the Victoria Derby (2500m) for three-year-olds and/or VRC Oaks for three-year-old fillies this spring.
Huntly Castle broke his maiden against older horses over 1600m at Bendigo in his third start before taking another step up on Saturday, beating filly Marndarra by 1-3/4-lengths with another 3-1/2-lengths to Presently third.
“He was really strong through the line and on that I don’t think the Victoria Derby trip will be an issue,” Lindsay Park co-trainer Ben Hayes said.
“So we’re going to put him aside and head towards the 2019 Victoria Derby.
“When they put on these longer races like this for the two-year-olds it really helps us trainers to develop our stayers.
“This is a good example here.
“He’s going to be a real Derby chance now, so we’ve just got to wrap him in cotton wool and get him to the Derby now.”
Hayes, who trains in partnership with his father David and cousin Tom Dabernig, said they would back off the colt and just keep him ticking over at their Euroa training property with the Derby Trial (1800m) at Flemington on September 25 to potentially form part of his spring program.
Ridden by Jye McNeil, Huntly Castle settled midfield after being slightly slow away before getting a nice run through early in the home straight.
The $3.90 favourite angled off the heels of Marndarra approaching the 300m before drawing clear of the filly in the final 100m.
Later in the program, Fred Kersley steered the Lindsay Park-trained mare Shokora to a 1-3/4-length win in the RMBL Investments Rising Stars Final after sprinting through a gap near the inside half-way up the home straight.
The Rising Stars Final was restricted to apprentice riders and was the culmination of a season-long series of 25 apprentice-only races around Victoria.
Kersley’s success in the Final took him to fourth in the overall pointscore, with Ethan Brown winning the series for a second time having notched the most points during the season.