BENDIGO trainer Shane Fliedner has Group 3 JRA Cup ambitions with Hi Stranger following the smart four-year-old's sixth career win on Saturday at Moonee Valley.
The versatile son of Zoffany and Luxury Suite made it two wins from two starts at the Valley with an accomplished performance in the $125,000 Brompton Handicap over 1600m.
Hi Stranger put the writing on the wall with his last-start second at Flemington a fortnight ago and proved too fit and too strong for the favourite No Effort to win by over a length.
Fliedner, who is enjoying an exceptional season with 14 winners at a win percentage of 17 per cent, said the four-year-old was continuing to improve with each and every campaign.
"He likes the Valley. He was a terrific run first-up (this preparation) and then second-up he was just stuck in the slow lane and his last start put the writing on the wall really," he said.
"He's virtually bred to run 2000m, but I've never pushed him to get out there.
"I think we will this time. He relaxes well and he's certainly bred to.
"People have got the wrong perception of him; he ran so good first-up and then he gets a little bit lost for a couple of runs.
"He's just turning five now, but he's just starting to be a real racehorse."
Hi Stranger, who broke through for his maiden win on Bendigo Cup day in October 2019, has since added five wins, three of them in city-class races.
His other victories came on Bendigo Cup day in 2020 and in this year's $100,000 Echuca Cup in March.
Fliedner had indicated following the gelding's last start second behind the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained Bartholomeu Dias at Flemington that he believed Hi Stranger was not far off his next city win.
On Saturday, he was proven correct.
Fliedner said the JRA Cup, to be run over 2040m at the Valley on Friday, September 24, was the eventual aim for Hi Stranger.
"Hopefully we might get there," he said.
Hi Stranger will look to tread the same path as Al Galayel, who won last year's JRA Cup after taking out the Brompton Handicap.
Al Galayel finished sixth in Saturday's race, beaten by more than three lengths by Hi Stranger.
Damien Thornton, who picked up his first win aboard the Bendigo galloper, is as equally convinced as Fliedner of Hi Stranger's future beyond 1600m.
"All he can do is win and that's what he has done today," he said.
"So, naturally you raise the bar and Shane will work out to what level. He's smart enough and knows what he is doing.
"He keeps improving every time I've ridden him, so each prep he has got that bit better.
"Who knows, he might get the 2000m and go to the next level. Only time will tell."
A $68,750 win purse took Hi Stranger close to the $500,000 prize money mark.
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