A Cups campaign will go on the line for Queensland stayer Spechenka when he takes his place in Saturday’s Group One Metropolitan at Randwick.
The Lloyd Williams-owned Mourayan and grand jumper Black And Bent are early scratchings with both among acceptances for The Bart Cummings (2500m) at Flemington a day later.
The Metropolitan (2400m) was one of three races being considered for Spechenka over the weekend along with The Bart Cummings and a 2100m assignment at Eagle Farm.
“The others were safeguards, we always hoped to run in the Metropolitan but where he was in the order of entry, we didn’t know if he’d get a run,” trainer Ben Ahrens said.
Spechenka has an outstanding record over the Metropolitan distance having won three of his four 2400m starts, including the Group Three Summer Cup at Randwick in December.
It was that win which prompted connections to dream of a Melbourne Cup start but whether that becomes a realistic target will be determined on Saturday.
“He definitely seems to like the 2400 metres but I’d like to test him beyond that,” Ahrens said.
“He would have to go really well on the weekend to think about that (3200m in the Melbourne Cup).
“Basically, since he won the Summer Cup we’ve thought that maybe the spring staying races would be a good option for him, so it has been in the back of our minds since then and we’re close to getting there.
“We’ll know more after we get over this hurdle on Saturday.”
Spechenka finished third at Eagle Farm two starts ago before disappointing in the Newcastle Cup won by Green Moon.
The performance baffled Ahrens but after “going over him with a fine-tooth comb” the six-year-old was found to have a sore back.
“We’re not entirely sure what happened at Newcastle but he did pull up a bit sore over his back,” he said.
“The physio looked at him and he had some work done on it and his back is better now.”
Spechenka has never been tested on a heavy track but is proven on all other surfaces and has drawn well in barrier two.
Kathy O’Hara will ride him for the first time with regular jockey Ryan Wiggins opting to stay in Brisbane due to the uncertainty over where Spechenka would run.
The gelding will be Ahrens’ first Group One runner.
Meanwhile, David Payne will start dual acceptor Praecido in the Metropolitan rather than the Craven Plate (2000m).
The Victoria Derby runner-up was to have worn blinkers for the first time in the Group One until he took charge of jockey Christian Reith while sporting them in trackwork and he will be fitted with winkers instead.
Claim $100 in Bonus Bets when you deposit $20!*