The Melbourne Cup dream is alive for connections of Surprise Baby who has stormed into favouritism after booking his place in the race with victory in The Bart Cummings.
Trained by Paul Preusker at Horsham in country Victoria, this year’s Adelaide Cup winner was sent out the $2.50 favourite in Saturday’s Bart Cummings (2500m) and under jockey Jordan Childs he finished over the top of his rivals to win by 1-1/2-lengths.
The victory earned the lightly raced five-year-old a ballot exemption into the $8 million Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on November 5 and the TAB reacted to the performance, halving the gelding’s Cup quote from $18 to $9 favourite.
Preusker had hoped Surprise Baby would gain the Melbourne Cup ballot exemption in The Andrew Ramsden at Flemington in May but when he finished a close second to Steel Prince, the trainer had to turn his attention to trying to qualify in The Bart Cummings.
“It was just a super ride and he’s a super horse,” Preusker said.
“The Ramsden sort of threw us a hurdle and we dealt with it.
“I think he’s the real deal.
“He probably wasn’t really wound up for this today but he’s a natural staying horse with a will to win.”
Surprise Baby has now won five of his 10 starts and Preusker is considering sending him into the 2019 Melbourne Cup without another run.
Childs had Surprise Baby just worse than midfield and the stayer still had work to do entering the home straight but made his run down the outside and charged to the lead at the 200m.
He defeated Supernova ($6) with leader Wolfe holding third, another three-quarters of a length away.
The victory brought up a winning double on the day for Childs.
“I’m just happy for Paul and the whole team up at Horsham,” Childs said.
“They’ve done a fantastic job with these horses and for them to get a horse into the Melbourne Cup, it’s a massive thrill to be a part of it.”