Steel Prince will be racing for something more than trying to keep his unbeaten run intact since joining the Anthony Freedman stable at Flemington.
For the first time, the winner of Saturday’s 2800m Listed race gains a ballot exemption into the Melbourne Cup 2019.
After beginning his career in Ireland, Steel Prince first raced in Australia with Darren Weir but following his four-year disqualification in February the gelding joined Freedman where he has gone on a four-run winning streak.
Freedman’s son Sam, and assistant-trainer, said Steel Prince was in pre-training with David Noonan before joining the stable.
“We are quite close with Dave and he filled us in with the horse’s traits,” Freedman said.
“He’s always been a hard going horse in his trackwork so you’ve really just got to flow with him and keep him in a nice, comfortable rhythm.
“Clayton Douglas has done a lot of work on him for us at Pinecliff and at Mornington and galloped him the other day and said he feels like he’s still coming on and improving.”
After winning first-up at Sandown in February, Freedman said the stable began to consider The Andrew Ramsden after success at Mornington in March.
Wins over 2425m at Caulfield in April and 2600m at Flemington on May 4 followed.
“We felt our way with him to start with and after his second win for us we starting looking at it as the best race for him,” Freedman said.
“Having the exemption for the Melbourne Cup and being at this time of the year, it was a logical race for a progressive stayer.
“We didn’t have huge expectations when we started with him but every time we’ve raised the bar he’s continued to exceed expectations, but he’s got to go up another level again on Saturday.
“Surprise Baby is a near certainty at the weights, but Steel Prince is a very tough horse and loves a dog fight.”
Apprentice Michael Poy, who has ridden Steel Prince in his past two wins, makes way for Damien Oliver on Saturday.
Steel Prince is the $3.50 second favourite in latest betting behind the well-supported Surprise Baby ($2.50) with the two stayers the only ones at single figure odds.