Self Sense (Image: Racing Photos)
It is 25 years since Irish hurdler Vintage Crop changed the Lexus Melbourne Cup and indeed the Spring Carnival forever with his knockout victory and now it could be time for an Australian hurdler to make an unlikely spring impact.
Self Sense lines up in Saturday's 1700-metre Sofitel Girls' Day Our Handicap at Flemington and, given he runs as well as expected, the eight-year-old will back-up a week later at Caulfield into the 2000-metre Naturalism Stakes, where victory would hand the connections a guaranteed start in the Caulfield Cup.
"He's thriving in his training and we just thought, while we've got a horse in great form, let's just do it," trainer and part-owner David Brideoake said on Friday.
"Whether he's got the leg speed for the shorter trip tomorrow, I'm not sure, but it will put him in pretty good shape for the race the week after (Naturalism Stakes), which gets us into a Caulfield Cup if he could win it."
Self Sense is one of 163 horses to hold an entry for the $5 million Caulfield Cup and one of 182 horses that have a nomination for the $7.3m Melbourne Cup despite not passing the ballot clause for either race.
He was this week allocated the minimum weight of 50kg for both Cups, meaning he must win a ballot-free race to gain entry into the fields.
But it's not just the Cups the connections are flirting with. This week the first acceptances were taken for the Cox Plate and its numbers were reduced to just 63 contenders. One of those was Self Sense.
Self Sense last raced six weeks ago when he ran second in the Grand National Hurdle after giving 5kg away to winner Cougar Express. He then had two weeks in the paddock before coming back for a trial at Cranbourne nearly two weeks ago.
"He's had a bit of a let-up since the hurdle and he's had a trial at Cranbourne and I thought he really trialled well so he can take his place in the field," Brideoake said.
"His trial was fantastic and got us looking forward to him racing again."
Brideoake said Self Sense was at the height of his powers despite being an eight-year-old.
"He's definitely mature, both physically and mentally, so there's no time like the present," he said.
"I've nominated him in a few of the big races and we'll run him in those mile-and-a-half-type races that potentially might give him a chance of making it.
"His times he's been running, they are not bad times. There are plenty of races over the spring that we could end up in. We could even go all the way to Sandown for the two-mile race there.
"But we'll give him a chance to see what he can do."