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    Surprise Baby had an exhibition gallop at the 2019 Horsham Cup meeting.Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Surprise Baby firms for Melbourne Cup tilt


Exciting Wimmera stayer Surprise Baby has firmed as favourite for this year’s Melbourne Cup after a slashing return to racing at the weekend.

Surprise Baby ran a gallant second to evergreen topliner Humidor in the JF Feehan Stakes at Moonee Valley on Saturday, just going under after enduring a tough run in which the gelding covered extra ground wide on the track.

A win would have secured the 2019 Adelaide Cup winner a ‘golden ticket’ into the Cox Plate next month, which trainer Paul Preusker had eyed as a lead-up race on the path to a second tilt at the Melbourne Cup.

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Surprise Baby finished fifth in last year’s Melbourne Cup behind Vow And Declare and has returned to racing as an improved horse according to Preusker’s partner and stable spokeswoman Holly McKechnie.

“I think off that run he is right on target, he is a more relaxed horse this time around,” McKechnie said.

She said Surprise Baby had thrived since Saturday’s race.

“He has pulled up really well, he is a very sound horse so there are no issues there.”

McKechnie, who was one of Victoria’s leading female jockeys for many years, said discussions were continuing as to whether Surprise Baby would target the 2000-metre Cox Plate on October 24, or the Caulfield Cup the week prior. 

“Paul is discussing with the owner where he races next, so I can’t give any comment about that at this stage,” she said.

Bookmakers reduced Surprise Baby’s odds for the Melbourne Cup from $10 to $8.50 favourite in early markets. Surprise Baby has only raced 12 times for five wins and prizemoney of $998,735.

Champion jockey Craig Williams, who won the 2019 Melbourne Cup, is likely to continue aboard Surprise Baby after being handed the reins for the first time in the Feehan Stakes.

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