SURPRISE Baby came within a whisker of automatic entry into the Cox Plate during its comeback run at Mooney Valley on Saturday.
The Horsham-trained racehorse was competing for the first time since its fifth-place finish at the 2019 Melbourne Cup in the $250,000 Feehan Stakes.
The pre-race favourite finished strongly in the 1600-metre race, but was narrowly pipped by three-time group 1-winner Humidor at the finish.
Horsham-based trainer Paul Presuker said he was pleased the effort despite the result.
Preusker made the bold declaration that the stayer "hadn't opened the pipes" across the 1600 metres.
"We're really happy with the horse and how he came back," he said post-race.
"I was well aware that the way everything has played out for me over the last few months, this horse might have been a little ring rusty.
"This run will definitely bring him right where we want him.
"I think we're on target - we're looking forward to the future."
Surprise Baby was also ridden by 2019 Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Craig Williams for the first time in the race.
Preusker said that while the Cox Plate was an incredibly attractive prospect, Surprise Baby was more suited to the long distance of the Melbourne Cup.
"We'll digest today and go from there. For me, if he's going to go in it (the Cox Plate), you want to make sure he's the right horse for the job," he said.
"We know we've got a Melbourne Cup horse, and that's what we've got our eyes on.
"We'll go home, digest it all properly and make a call from there."
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The final result on Saturday, coming within a length of a birth in the Cox Plate, might have reassured Preusker that the Baby could be a contender for one of Australia's most prestigious races.
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