A benchmark 70 race at a metropolitan city meeting is not your usual stepping stone to later spring features.
But that’s what trainer Tony McEvoy is hoping when Illumicon runs in the VRC Member James Hibberd Handicap over the straight 1200m course at Flemington on Saturday.
McEvoy holds Illumicon in high esteem and has Group One aspirations for the four-year-old, earmarking the Toorak Handicap at Caulfield a potential target.
However with a rating of 68 after a first-up Sandown 1000m win last month, McEvoy needs to get Illumicon’s rating up before contemplating better company.
Part of that plan is victory on Saturday, incurring a ratings rise to a progression in class.
A jump-out at Flemington last Friday was the piece of work McEvoy wanted to see from the gelding ahead of Saturday.
“You don’t get the opportunity to trial down the straight too often so I gave him a look last Friday in a jump-out just to familiarise him with the straight,” McEvoy.
“Gee he impressed me.
“It’s a lovely little race for him and I think we’ll learn a lot about him in this race.”
Illumicon will front up against Lindsay Park’s Gold Mag who has registered victories at Bendigo and Sandown in his only two starts.
In the Sandown win last month he recorded a widening five length victory.
McEvoy is wary of Gold Mag but remains confident.
“It will be changing its name on Saturday night to Silver Mag,” McEvoy joked.
“It looks a good contest between the two horses as he’s been very impressive so far.
They’ve got better horses to be taking on soon and they should be able to handle it.
“But I wouldn’t go swapping my horse for anything else.”