Victory in the Andrew Ramsden Stakes at Flemington will take a lot of pressure from the winning trainer heading towards the Melbourne Cup.
Success in Saturday’s Listed race over 2800m provides the winner a ballot exemption into November’s Cup.
Last year was the first time the Andrew Ramsden provided the “bonus” and it drew a capacity field of 18 with Steel Prince ousting Surprise Baby in a thriller.
Steel Prince went on to finish ninth in the Cup while Surprise Baby won his way into the Cup via success in the Bart Cummings in October, running fifth behind Vow And Declare.
Adelaide Cup winner King Of Leogrance, trained by last year’s Cup winning trainer Danny O’Brien, is the highest-rated of the 15 gallopers entered for Saturday’s race and will be ridden by Damien Oliver who scored aboard Steel Prince last year.
King Of Leogrance has not raced since his Adelaide Cup (3200m) success at Morphettville in March but O’Brien has kept the Lloyd and Nick Williams part-owned stayer in work with Saturday’s race in mind.
“I’m very happy with him,” O’Brien said.
“He’s just been ticking over since Adelaide and he had a jump-out at Flemington the Friday before last, the same day as Russian Camelot jumped out, and went super.
“He’s ready to run again this Saturday and we’ll just turn up and take on whatever else is there.”
O’Brien said King Of Leogrance spent time at the trainer’s Thirteenth Beach property on the Bellerine Peninsula after his Adelaide Cup success before returning to Flemington to prepare for Saturday race.
How King Of Leogrance performs on Saturday will ultimately determine his spring program.
“I would think he would only run a couple of times between now and potentially the Melbourne Cup if he happened to win on Saturday,” O’Brien said.
“But we can’t go making too many plans beyond Saturday until we see what happens.
“Once we get Saturday out of the way then we can be a bit more specific about his plan for the spring.”
Vow And Declare had two spring starts after racing in Brisbane last year, running fourth in the Turnbull Stakes at Flemington before finishing second in the Caulfield Cup ahead of his Melbourne Cup success.
Potential opponents include last-start Adelaide winner Oceanex, Warrnambool Cup winner Too Close The Sun, Chris Waller-trained imports Norway and Surrey Thunder along with lightly raced up-and-coming stayer Dark Alley, prepared by Surprise Baby’s trainer Paul Preusker.