Danny O'Brien and Vow And Declare (Image: Jarrad Dooley)
As a four-year-old, Vow And Declare has run just three times and in the space of that trio of spring outings, he rose from a progressive three-year-old that stuck on a bit to the staying champion of the Southern Hemisphere.
Such was the rate of his progress, even trainer Danny O'Brien has trouble predicting the ceiling he can reach in 2020 as he prepares his horse for his return in Saturday's $1.25 million Group 1 Australian Cup at Flemington.
But the fact that he thinks he can win a second Melbourne Cup with the horse and senses Saturday's Australian Cup is not out of his reach, suggests O'Brien thinks Vow And Declare is still well short of his full potential.
"We're looking forward to seeing what else he might be able to do as a four-year-old and obviously the first step is the Australian Cup there tomorrow," O'Brien said on Friday morning.
"He's matured a little bit. He's still a horse that is developing so he's 30 kilograms heavier than he was in the Melbourne Cup and we're hoping that makes him that little bit bigger and stronger and hopefully he's got a little bit more speed for a 2000-metre race.
"I am sure he'll run really well. We'll leave the form analysts decide how he'll measure up, but his Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup form is very good form and he'll enjoy the cut out of the ground tomorrow.
"He loves Flemington and he loves 2000 metres - he was very competitive in the Turnbull (Stakes) so I am sure he's a live chance."
WATCH: Hear from O'Brien
After winning his first Group race in the Tatts Cup (3000m) in Brisbane in June, Vow And Declare returned to Melbourne a changed horse.
He ran first-up in the unsuitable set-weights-and-penalties Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield in October and was beaten just 1.5 lengths into fourth place.
He snuck into the Caulfield Cup field on the back of that effort and beat all bar Japanese winner Mer De Glace, before 17 days later beating them all in his brave Melbourne Cup triumph.
O'Brien explained Vow And Declare shared a paddock near the beach with his VRC Oaks winner Miami Bound.
"He's had a lovely break over summer down at our 13th Beach property and he's done a lot of work there before coming back to Flemington," O'Brien said.
"He's had two barrier trials - one at Cranbourne and one here at Flemington on the course proper and both of them were good and he'll present well here on Saturday."
O'Brien intends keeping Vow And Declare in work right through to next November's Melbourne Cup so has interstate plans beyond Saturday.
"The plan is to head to Sydney for the Queen Elizabeth (2000m) then to Queensland for the Doomben Cup and the new Q22 race they have up there and then run in the Tatts Cup, which he won last year, before he comes back down for the spring," he said.
"It's a good campaign for him. It enables us to keep him ticking over in winter and bring him back here nice and fit and strong and not have to race him too many times in the spring, like we did last year.
"Hopefully, he can get to Melbourne Cup Day again in 2020 and turn up in the best possible shape to run a great race."