BENDIGO trainer Shane Fliedner has long held the view Hi Stranger could be effective at distances beyond the mile.
On Friday night at Moonee Valley, he's hoping his suspicions will be confirmed.
The five-year-old gelding will make the step up to Group level for the third time in his career in the $200,000 JRA Cup over the 2040m Cox Plate distance.
The Group 3 event has been on the radar since the ultra-consistent galloper's brilliant win in the $125,000 Brompton Handicap (1600m) at The Valley in July.
He followed that performance with another stirring win at Caulfield in the $130,000 Neds Handicap (1600m) before finishing unplaced back at The Valley three weekends ago.
On trial at the distance, Fliedner rates Hi Stranger a good chance of a top-three finish if he manages to handle the step-up in trip.
"We're certainly on trial at it, but we've got our fingers crossed that he will get the job done for us," he said.
"One thing about me with my horses, I won't die wondering. You've got to be that way.
"I don't think he'll be far away from them. To run a placing in a Group 3 race, the owners and I would be absolutely rapt. The horse is as good as I can get him."
Never far off the winner in his races, Hi Stranger - this year's Echuca Cup winner - has fared well in most of his seven Group or Listed race appearances, highlighted by his second in the Listed A.R. Creswick Stakes at Flemington last June.
He also finished a solid fifth on his home track in the Listed Golden Mile at Bendigo earlier this year and despite finishing eighth was beaten by only two lengths in the Group 2 Rubiton Stakes at Caulfield in February.
Hi Stranger has shown plenty of affinity for the Valley with two wins, both over 1600m, from his three starts.
Fliedner, who led all Bendigo trainers last season with 14 winners at a strike rate of 16.7 per cent, has one other good reason for wanting to see the gelding acquit himself at the distance
A potential tilt up north early in the new year.
"He's a Magic Millions horse and we were keen last year to go to Queensland, but as it turned it, it was too difficult," he said.
"This year come January, I'm hoping things won't be as bad (COVID-wise), so I need to find out now.
"There are a couple of staying races up there that are worth a lot of money and they don't involve Group 1 horses - they're winnable.
"So, if I'm happy with him on Friday and he can finish in the first three and shows us he can get the trip, we can give him a little break, because he's due for one, and plot a mission to get there."
Stanley hoping to recreate Valley magic
The Brent Stanley-trained It's Kind Of Magic returns to the scene of her biggest career win in the benchmark 84 handicap (1200m) at The Valley.
The five-year-old mare is resuming from a seven-week let-up and will be chasing a third straight victory.
She won her last start at Gawler in South Australia in July, which followed a 1200m victory on the Ballarat synthetic a month earlier.
It's Kind Of Magic scored the most impressive of her four wins from 12 career starts at The Valley as a three-year-old in a $135,000 benchmark 78 in December 2019.
She will be ridden for the first time by Craig Newitt.
Stanley, now based in Bendigo, will be looking to carry on the momentum following a classy win to the three-year-old colt Serenaur at Ballarat last Sunday.
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