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The Mornington Cup features in trainer Mike Moroney's autumn plans for Aktau

The Mornington Cup features in trainer Mike Moroney’s autumn plans for Aktau as part of a long-term plan to target Australia’s major staying races with the lightly raced import.

Aktau made an encouraging start to his Australian career when he won a 1600m-benchmark race at Flemington on December 21.

The English stayer was bought as a Melbourne Cup prospect and has his second Australian start, and sixth of his career, in Saturday’s Mal Seccull Handicap (1800m) at Caulfield.

“He was really impressive first-up and he’s trained on very well,” Moroney said.

“We’ve given him time between runs. We’re trying to keep him in work to have a crack at the Mornington Cup, all going well.”

The winner of the Listed Mornington Cup (2400m) on March 21 earns a ballot exemption to the $5 million Caulfield Cup (2400m) in October.

“We all know he’s got to acclimatise and at this stage he seems good, but if he puts in a poor one we’ll go to the paddock,” Moroney said.

“But we’d like to try to keep him up for a crack at the Mornington Cup if we could.”

Among Aktau’s opposition on Saturday is another lightly raced import, Just Benjamin, who is shading him for favouritism.

The Anthony Freedman-trained Just Benjamin made an eye-catching Australian debut at Caulfield over 1600m on January 4 when he burst between runners late for a close fifth.

“It will be interesting against him, but we think our horse is a reasonably good horse,” Moroney said.

“We bought him to win a Melbourne Cup, all going well, but he’s certainly shown a bit of class which is good.

“We know this is not his right trip but he is still going really well and he should be very competitive.”

Moroney is hopeful stablemate Alburq can bounce back from his last-start unplaced run over 1400m at Flemington against a small but select field in Saturday’s Manfred Stakes (1200m).

“We can’t fault him,” he said.

“We were disappointed with his last effort but we’re hoping he can turn it around back to 1200-metres on a firmer track.”

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