VERSATILE Bendigo galloper Hi Stranger continued his winning trajectory with another strong city-class victory at Caulfield on Saturday.
The Shane Fliedner-trained gelding made it back-to-back metropolitan wins, following up his success at Moonee Valley on the final day of the 2020-21 racing season, with a trademark tenacious performance over the 1600m.
The Zoffany/Luxury Suite gelding settled a bit further back than intended, but with an edge in fitness and class on most of his rivals, he was able to prevail in a blanket finish, with less than a length covering the first six placegetters.
While not everything went according to plan, according to both Fliedner and jockey Damien Thornton, it was an effort convincing enough for his Group 1-winning rider to declare Hi Stranger had earned his shot at some black-type races and a step up in distance.
"All's well that ends well as they say - he jumped much better today, which was good, but I was a bit further back than I wanted with the two that kicked up inside me. I probably didn't expect them to have the speed," he said
"But that's racing, anything can happen.
"He probably relaxed better than he did at the Valley and he went like he was looking for that bit further, which is something I thought I never thought I'd say.
"I thought he was a dead-set miler, but he might be looking at 2000m at some point soon.
"He's probably earned his right to step up in grade and have a crack at 2000m races at some point in the near future.
"He is going well, the horse is full of confidence and when they're like this, they keep winning and running well."
Hi Stranger was able to notch up his seventh career win from 30 starts, with four of his wins now in city races.
Following his win a fortnight ago at Moonee Valley, Fliedner indicated the Group 3 JRA Cup (2040m) at the same track on September 24 was a target for his ultra-consistent galloper.
On Saturday, he was keeping his options open.
"He's got a few things to do yet - I don't know if we can squeeze any more out of him, but we will stick at the mile at the moment and see how we go," he said.
"I think we have got a few options to let us know if we can or not (get out to 2000m).
"In a fortnight there might be a 2000m here (at Caulfield) and in three weeks there's a 2000m at Moonee Valley prior to (the JRA Cup), so I am sure we will know then."
Hi Stranger, whose seven wins have come over four distances (1000, 1100m, 1400m and 1600m) showed versatility of a different sort when the early race plan went out the door.
Fliedner was quick to praise the five-year-old's durability.
"It didn't quite pan out like we had it worked out last time, but possibly, the horse that was running third, we thought we might be in that spot," he said.
"It was keener to get there than we were, so we had to come back off the speed and he gave him a little bit of ground.
"We were probably not in the worse going, but the 'not as fast' going down the centre, but anyhow, he got the job done.
"He's a tough little bugger - and he keeps on trying."
Saturday's win pushed Hi Stranger to $563,700 in earnings from 30 starts.
It was his second win at Caulfield. His first was in the $108,000 Ian Miller Handicap (1000m) in May last year.
Thornton continued his affinity with Hi Stranger, with his five rides aboard the gelding so far yielding two wins and two placings.
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