Port Macquarie trainer Jenny Graham is convinced her stable star Victorem is perfectly placed to finally complete the big double for country-trained horses - three years after taking the first leg by winning the Country Championships.
Victorem, part-owned by Kempsey's Rhonda and Peter Bannon, which has a solid recent history of performing well in Group-class races, is being aimed at the $1.3 million The Kosciuszko over 1200 metres at Randwick on October 19.
The seven-year-old gelding has run twice in the race for a fifth in 2018 and a second in 2019. He could not be considered for the race last year because of an injury setback. He won the final of the Country Championships in the autumn of 2018.
"We're very happy at this stage with how he's going in his work," Graham said. "We've just got to try and place him now in races - like The Kosciuszko, back to country grade. He's been racing in high-pressure Group races in his recent campaigns and he's going as good as he's ever gone.
"I'm sure he'd be very, very competitive back to his own grade in a race like this. He's a very versatile horse - he's shown that over time and he's still showing it - and I think the 1200 metres will be terrific for him at this stage of his career.
"He's won at Group Two and Listed levels, so he'll get plenty of weight. Up-and-coming horses with less weight is a concern, but he's raced at the top level so I feel he deserves the weight. The point is I believe he'll be able to carry the weight and still do very well."
The Kosciuszko is a unique event in that punters can get the chance to have a horse run for them by purchasing $5 tickets in the slot draw via the TAB website or app. The 14 lucky slot winners each pick a horse to run for them and do a deal on a share of the prizemoney with the connections.
Trainers who have borderline contenders for The Kosciuszko will in many cases feel compelled to race their horses either before or just after the slot draw - to be conducted on September 9 - in a bid to impress the slot winners.
But Victorem, which is currently the fourth favourite for the race at $8 in TAB fixed odds betting, is bound to be sought after based on its terrific established record and that means Graham can plan a campaign that best fits the horse.
She said she may give Victorem a race start ahead of The Kosciuszko, or go straight in via two barrier trials.
Graham said the way Victorem is performing in his work at the moment, if he remained that way throughout his campaign she would feel very good about his chances as she walked into Randwick on the day of the rich race.
"I'd be very confident," she said. "Just how he is right now, I really feel we're on track. When things are on song he's a very bouncy horse and loves his work. If he's not quite right, he's very quiet. Right now, he's loving it. He's well and because of that I'm very well too.
"He doesn't use any extra energy when he races. He's pretty push-button in where you can put him. He does like to find his feet and finish his races off, but still you can put him wherever you like in the run and that helps a lot.
"Victorem's owners have had a great run with the horse. We all have - myself, my staff, all my family. We were as happy as a pig in mud with our result when he ran second in The Kosciuszko, but for sure I'll be trying as hard as I can to go one step higher with him this year."
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