It’s a fork in the road race and young Ballarat-based English trainer Archie Alexander is hoping to get some definitive answers for his two contenders, top weight Young Rascal and another near the top of the handicap, Haky.
“It’s the day for both of them to stand up and show that they deserve to be in the Cup,” says Alexander. “If they are going to be running well in that then they need to be winning or running well here.”
Young Rascal (22nd in the order of entry for the 24-runner Cup) will make the field if he is fit and well enough to run on the big day but Haky is currently 46th and would need to win the Bart Cummings to ensure he gets a start.
“We would love a bit of rain just to take the sting out of the ground for Young Rascal,” says the trainer of his highly regarded import who, earlier in his career, went off second favourite for the Epsom Derby.
Haky has won over the course and distance on Anzac Day when he landed a competitive handicap.
He has disappointed twice since, in the Heatherlie Handicap behind one of Saturday’s rivals In Good Health and behind Caulfield Cup favourite Orderofthegarter in the Naturalism a couple of weeks ago.
Alexander is hoping that form is not representative of where his horse’s ability lies.
“Everything went completely wrong for him that day. He went too far forward and he just didn’t finish it up.”
Whoever wins will invariably be competitive in the Melbourne Cup, and is likely to be well backed on the big day.
Last year Surprise Baby triumphed before finishing an unlucky fifth. He is Cup favourite this year. Avilius landed the prize in 2018, while in 2016 subsequent Cup winner Almandin won the golden ticket for Lloyd Williams and Robert Hickmott.