Mick Bell has lifted the bar for Jungle Edge by aiming him at the TJ Smith Stakes, a Group One challenge he initially thought was beyond the gelding.
The Victorian trainer only realised his stable star was a viable candidate for the 2017 edition of the TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) when it was too late, and too expensive.
Once Jungle Edge claimed the Group Three Star Kingdom Stakes last March the late entry fee for the TJ Smith was a prohibitive $55,000.
Bell and his fellow owners won’t be caught out this year and have already paid the initial $165 entry fee.
“I wasn’t sure he was up to it. We didn’t know he’d be good enough and when we did the fee was exorbitant,” Bell said.
Refreshed after a summer holiday, Jungle Edge starts his Sydney autumn campaign in the Group Two Challenge Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on Saturday with the winner exempt from ballots on The Galaxy and the TJ Smith.
Ideally the $2.5 million TJ Smith at Randwick on April 7 will be followed by a second crack at the Group One All Aged Stakes a fortnight later.
Jungle Edge opened last autumn with a fifth in the Challenge Stakes won by English from eventual $10 million Everest winner Redzel.
He then ran third behind Russian Revolution and Redzel in The Galaxy and recorded another minor placing in the Group One All Aged Stakes.
Redzel and English are among the nominations for the Challenge Stakes, with Bell relaxed about another race against the highly rated pair.
“His form’s been really good. We’re expecting a forward showing,” Bell said.
He targeted Sydney over autumn because of the likelihood of wet tracks so he was hoping Randwick stayed in the soft range following rain on Monday and Tuesday.
Jungle Edge, who has recorded all his 13 career wins on soft or heavy ground, was a $51 chance for the Challenge Stakes with the TAB on Tuesday.
“If this horse was trained by a more fashionable trainer he’d be going into this race six or seven to one chance, not a 50-1 chance. It’s crazy,” he said.
Redzel was the $1.50 favourite to bounce back from a first-up second to Redkirk Warrior in the Group One Lightning Stakes at Flemington on February 17.