It has taken seven-year-old Steel Prince a little longer this year, but he has secured his spot in the 2020 Melbourne Cup after a tough Geelong cup victory over his stablemate Le Don De Vie on Wednesday.
After having the dream run in the race in behind the speed, jockey Jye McNeil presented him out on the turn and looked to be travelling perfectly.
He appeared to have them covered at the 200m when he ranged up but was forced to dig deep by a tough Le Don De Vie, who fought right to the end in an impressive first-up display, and King Of Leogrance, who got the saved ground on the fence on the bend and looked to take the race up the inside.
Last year, the son of Nathaniel had his Melbourne Cup berth secured in May when getting the better of Surprise Baby in a sterling battle up the Flemington straight in the Andrew Ramsden.
This year, he bypassed the Autumn and came back to the racetrack on the last Saturday of August. He attempted to gain automatic qualification in the Bart Cummings three weeks ago but after a tough wide run, he was gamely only able to finish third.
That brought him to the Geelong Cup and after being strongly backed throughout the day into favouritism, he was able to secure himself a run in ‘The Race That Stops The Nation’ on the first Tuesday of November.
After seeing the stablemates fight out the quinella, co-trainer Sam Freedman was stoked to have Steel Prince heading towards back-to-back Melbourne Cups.
“Credit to this horse, he’s incredible. He’s obviously been around a while and he just keeps turning up,” Freedman said on Racing.com post-race.
“I said to Jye (McNeil) if you’re right there at the top of the straight, he’s a horse that just loves a dog fight (and) he was too strong today.”
Freedman was also pleased with the first-up run in Australia by the runner-up, Le Don De Vie, who will now head towards the Cup if he gets a run or shift to the Lexus Hotham Handicap (formerly the Lexus Stakes) over 2500m.
“The second horse was really brave, his first start in Australia, he wouldn’t shirk the task,” Freedman added.
“If he gets in, we’ll go to the Cup, if not, there’s a (2500m) on the last day that can suit.”
Steel Prince now finds himself on the eighth line of betting for the Melbourne Cup at $21 while Le Don De Vie sits at $51.