Trainer Stephen Marsh is Melbourne-bound in search of a golden ticket.
The Cambridge trainer will saddle progressive stayer Felaar in the Listed Andrew Ramsden Stakes (2800m) at Flemington on Saturday, with the winner guaranteed a start in the Gr.1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) at the same course on the first Tuesday in November.
Felaar won the Listed Hawke’s Bay Cup (2200m) last month before his two preparation runs in Melbourne ahead of Saturday’s assignment, finishing a luckless 11th at Flemington before a good run for third at Caulfield last start.
“He is primed and ready for his big attack on Saturday,” Marsh said.
“I think he has improved from the run at Caulfield. The first-up run was a bit of a non-event, he was a victim of circumstances there. Second-up he was a lot better, but I think that run has brought him on.
“Going back to a nice big track like Flemington, I really like it. The field is nice but similar to what he has met previously. It has got a ticket to the Melbourne Cup, so if we can be winning we will definitely be back for it.”
Felaar will sport the royal blue and white hoops carried to victory in the 2001 Melbourne Cup by Ethereal, with the star mare’s owner Sir Peter Vela sharing ownership of Felaar, alongside restaurateur Leo Molloy, while Marsh also has an interest.
“There are a lot of great races around the world but the Melbourne Cup is really the one race that every trainer wants to win,” Marsh said.
“To have a runner would be great. I even own a share in him myself so it would be even better.
“It is the race that stops the nation, and a lot of the world now, so it would mean everything to get in.”
Felaar will be ridden by ex-pat Michael Dee, who can get down to a lightweight should Felaar book a Melbourne Cup berth. The five-year-old gelding has drawn perfectly in barrier six, with a capacity field of 18 to run.
“I think he is a good stayer. He is still learning his trade, he is a big raw sort of horse, a staying type and he doesn’t really know how to let down properly yet,” Marsh said.
“He is getting better and better and I think he goes into this race a much more forward horse. Things are looking pretty good.
“I’d like to see him off the bit travelling just in behind the speed, just ahead of midfield. Hopefully he drops the bit and I don’t see the 2800m as a problem.
“Michael Dee was very keen to stick with the ship after riding him at Caulfield. He put his hand straight up for the ride so we booked him straight away. He is more than happy to stick with him and we were more than happy to have him on.”
Run under weight-for-age conditions, the A$400,000 race has drawn a solid field featuring in-form stayers Steel Prince and Surprise Baby.