David and Ben Hayes with Jamie Kah after Harlem's Australian Cup win on Saturday (Image: Racing Photos)
While the inaugural $5 million All-Star Mile will dominate centre stage at Flemington on Saturday, another of Victorian racing's new initiatives will be at the back of the minds of the Lindsay Park team.
David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig have two All-Star Mile contenders in the form of three-year-olds Amphitrite and Hawkshot, but as co-trainer Ben Hayes explained on Tuesday, a relatively nondescript 1400-metre Stakes race on Saturday's card holds a certain significance for the stable.
Tackling the My Kitchen Rules Stakes in his first run in this country is former English galloper Super Titus, who, if all goes to plan, could sneak through the back door into November's Lexus Melbourne Cup via a new ballot-free race at Flemington in May.
"We are going to hopefully target the Andrew Ramsden, which is now an automatic qualifier for the Melbourne Cup, so if he's able to win that and we're able to qualify with the minimum weight, it would be fantastic," Hayes said after the horse worked at Flemington on Tuesday.
The five-year-old Dansili gelding certainly has a few things going for him. He was purchased to race in Australia by the Hong Kong-based Edmund Lee, who experienced the highs and lows of racing last Saturday when Harlem won him a second TAB Australian Cup but the veteran Redkirk Warrior moved into retirement following a 21st placing in the Seppelt Wines Newmarket Handicap.
The Andrew Ramsden Stakes (formerly the Duke Of Norfolk Stakes) has enjoyed a doubling of prizemoney this season to $400,000 but its real appeal now is that it is the first of just five Australian races where the winner is guaranteed a start in the Lexus Melbourne Cup.
The other races are The Bart Cummings (2500m) the Caulfield Cup, the Cox Plate and, just three days before the Cup, the Hotham Handicap. Japan's Tenno Sho winner and the winner of the Irish St Leger also receive ballot-free runs into the Lexus Melbourne Cup.
Super Titus is well down in the ratings with just three wins to his name - the most recent of those over 2385 metres at York in a rating 105 race last August, where he won by four lengths.
"Obviously, the 1400 (metres) this week is going to be too short for him but he's trialled up well so we're kicking off here and we are thinking about running him a couple of weeks later in the Golden Nugget (at Bendigo) over a mile," Hayes said.
"He's definitely shown really good ability at home and I think he'll be strong late."