Dual Group One winner Lucky Hussler has bounced back to top form with a hard-fought victory over Illustrious Lad in the Kevin Heffernan Stakes at Sandown.
Lucky Hussler had been unplaced in his two starts this spring in Group One sprints and trainer Darren Weir said it was good to see the gelding produce in Saturday’s 1300m Group Three weight-for-age race.
“It was nice to see him attack the line again,” Weir said.
“He had a knee chip removed at the end of his last preparation and he’s had two runs back in and he had been working a lot better than he had been racing.
“So it was good to see him stretch out and have a crack today.”
Lucky Hussler had blinkers removed for Saturday’s race, a move Weir said came about after an impressive trial on Tuesday.
“I think he’s back on track for the Magic Millions,” Weir said.
Lucky Hussler won the $1 million Magic Millions Cup (1400m) at the Gold Coast in January and that is the target again on January 14 next year.
Illustrious Lad, winner of a Group Two sprint at Flemington last start, crossed to sit outside the leader Faatinah and travelled into the race strongly before hitting the front early in the straight.
Lucky Hussler, with Brad Rawiller aboard, emerged on his inside from back in the field and the pair surged clear of the pack inside the last 200m.
Illustrious Lad kept rallying late but Lucky Hussler got home by a short head with four lengths to third-placed Super Cash.
“He kind of waited at the top of the straight, he was just going too easy,” Illustrious Lad’s jockey Anthony Darmanin said.
“Once Brad came up beside me he went again but it was too late. But the horse is going very well.”