Echo Lad winning at Warwick Farm (Image: Bradley Photos)
It's too early to tell whether Echo Lad will end up a Victoria Derby contender, but Adrian Bott likes that the gelding gets another audition at the venue for the 2500-metre spring Group 1 this Saturday.
For that reason, Bott is grateful for the Byerley Handicap's presence on the calendar.
An 1800-metre event for two-year-olds worth $135,000, the Byerley Handicap also offers a ballot exemption from the VRC Derby or VRC Oaks at Flemington.
That 'golden ticket' appeals, but the opportunity to get Echo Lad into a race beyond a mile against his own vintage is almost as significant in the eyes of Bott, who trains in partnership with Gai Waterhouse.
"We're sort of the only country that doesn't get the opportunity to test the two-years-olds over that sort of distance - they wouldn't think twice about it internationally - but some horses are looking for these type of conditions," Bott said.
"The fact that we can get them out to a race like this and get the grounding for them is great. If he is to be a potential Derby horse, they need to be able to get conditioned and seasoned in some way and these races really help with that process."
The first edition of the Byerley Handicap was won by Anchor Bid, who was swiftly installed one of the favourites for the VRC Oaks but never made it to the race, while last year's winner Visao went on to finish fourth in the G3 Norman Robinson Stakes and eighth in the Derby.
Bott said it might look a surprise that the last-start, 2.5-length Wednesday winner over 1600m at Warwick Farm at his fourth career start shapes as a stayer given he is a son of Squamosa, but he and Waterhouse had experience with Echo Lad's dam, Porcellanus, which is where his staying promise comes from.
"We trained his mother, and we didn't get to see the best of her, but she was one that was going to be a nice staying type," Bott said.
"She was a New Zealand filly by High Chaparral who had the bloodlines to stay and I think he's thrown more to the dam than the sire.
"He really came into his own once we stepped him up to the mile last start.
"I know he probably had everything run to suit there at Warwick Farm, he had a pretty good time in front and was well-rated by Blake (Shinn) on that occasion, but he's also a horse that's progressive and getting out to his right trip and showing the benefit of racing.
"We're hoping that takes him a long way on Saturday. He's got the miles in his legs for what should be a good test, he's taking winning form in and is a horse that should appreciate that sort of distance."
Echo Lad, the 59kg topweight, will be ridden by Stephen Baster and start from barrier four in the Byerley Handicap, for which he is a $4.80 chance in BetEasy's market.