Matthew Smith with his retired G1 winner Fierce Impact (Image: Racing Photos)
There's something extra sweet about Victorian prizemoney for Matthew Smith.
The Warwick Farm-based trainer has launched more than a few successful raids on the carnival's riches in his time, and he's plotting a path again this year.
On Saturday, Smith will have his first Victorian runner of the season with Japanese import Keiai Nautique stepping out in the Group 1 PFD Food Services Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m).
It will be a chance for Smith to defend his crown in the race, having won last year's edition with Keiai Nautique's brother Fierce Impact.
Keiai Nautique made his presence felt on debut, charging down the outside to narrowly miss in the G1 Winx Stakes over 1400m.
And in an ominous sign, Smith believes Keiai Nautique will improve even more once he gets out to 2000m.
The seven-year-old was a paid-up first acceptor for the Cox Plate on Tuesday and Smith said he is hopeful the entire's performance on Saturday warrants a push to The Valley showpiece, positive he will run well.
"If he can be running home strong (that's what we want to see)," Smith said.
"I think he will be better at a mile-and-a-quarter is when you will see the best of him. It's our first prep with the horse, so we are learning as we go.
"We've put him in for the Cox Plate and we've put a plan in place to get him there. He will go Makybe (Diva Stakes), the Group 1 (TAB Turnbull Stakes over) 2000m at Flemington or the Hill Stakes. If he wins one of those, he might get a run in the Cox Plate, which is where we want to be.
"If not, we will go to Plan B and there's stacks of races for him."
Smith is hopeful of sending more horses down to Victoria during the spring, leaning on some friends down south to help him out.
He said punters are likely to see Attorney, Dick Whittington and possibly Nimalee at the races at some stage during the carnival.
"I'd like to get a few down there to Victoria and win a couple," Smith said.
"We have good connections down there with trainers who have helped us out during the years. Staff-wise, it's difficult because we've always been able to send our staff, which is more comforting knowing that they know the horse.
"But I think a lot comes down to the horse you are sending. If they are not complicated, it makes it easier for everyone."