The Chosen One winning at Flemington (Image: Racing Photos)
Sydney Cup runner-up The Chosen One has confirmed his rating as a genuine spring Cups player after easily dealing with a quality line-up to win the Winning Edge Handicap (1700m) first-up at Flemington on Saturday.
The winner of the G2 Herbert Power Stakes last spring, which earned him a place in both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups, The Chosen One is right in contention for both Cups again after breezing through his first run for the season in fine style over an unsuitably short trip.
Co-trainer Murray Baker said during the week he felt The Chosen One was a big improver from last season and he was certainly right as he put paid to fellow Cups aspirants Django Freeman and Aristia.
The Chosen One was weighted at 53.5 kilograms for both Cups and looks safely in both races.
Jockey Michael Dee said he went into the race with a bit of confidence.
"He looked ready (in the yard), and speaking to Murray on the phone, he was very positive that he was well and truly fit enough," Dee said.
"It's onwards and upwards from here."
Asked whether he was up to the major Cups, Dee said: "Let's hope so. He's gotten better and better each year and he's taken a lot of maturity now."
The Chosen One started at $21 and had a length margin over Django Freeman ($4), with 2018 Oaks winner Aristia ($13) showing a return to form in third place.
Trainer Rob Hickmott said he was hoping the firm track would not cause problems for Django Freeman after a period on the sidelines with injury.
"(I was) happy coming into the straight," he said. "He floated around a bit with the first time on that firm ground for quite some time post his knee operation. Just hope he didn't feel that. We'll know more in the next 48 hours when we get him home.
"Very happy with the run - a little bit on and off the bridle. Michael (Rodd) suggested, too, whether we need to go for the blinkers later on in his grand final. More than happy with his first-up effort, for sure."
Trainer Mike Moroney said he was happy to forgive Aktau his unplaced effort.
"He had a torrid run, posted three-wide and you can't do that with 59 on your back," he said. "Had to do a lot of work with the big weight on his back. But I thought his best work was late. He got outsprinted and then he was coming back again. Wasn't that far off them."
Earlier, the Ciaron Maher/David Eustace yard began the day in fine style at Flemington with the Lord Belvedere-Persan quinella in the first race opening up the possibility of a Melbourne Cup tilt for both horses.
Eustace said after Lord Belvedere finished too strongly for the stablemate ahead of the race favourite Schabau ($2.35) that both horses were in the Melbourne Cup and both were being aimed at a ballot-free run into the race through next month's Bart Cummings at Flemington.
"The Bart Cummings is next and if he can win that then that's the dream to get him into the (Melbourne) Cup," Eustace said of Lord Belvedere.
"I just want to mention the owners. They're giving 10 per cent of their winnings to Very Special Kids, who sponsored the race. It's a great charity and we're grateful to them for offering their prizemoney, and so is Ciaron and I."
Eustace said Persan again showed he was an emerging stayer: "He's doing a great job. We'd love to get him into the Bart Cummings, but it'll be touch-and-go, I'd imagine. Or if he snuck into The Metropolitan then that might be the plan as well."
Import Young Rascal finished eighth, beaten 10 lengths, and stewards subsequently reported that he pulled up lame in the near hind.