VUNGERS' bid for back-to-back Donald and Wodonga cup wins next month is on track following an excellent audition in his return to racing on Bendigo Cup day.
The popular Brendon Hearps-trained gelding worked to the line nicely to finish third behind Laffalong and Cafe Tortoni in the final heat of the Melbourne Cup Carnival Country Series, run over 1400m on Wednesday.
The top two placegetters were guaranteed spots in the field for the $500,000 final on VRC Oaks Day (November 4) at Flemington.
With Cafe Tortoni already qualified, the door was slightly ajar for the third placegetter to snare a spot in the field, as the Bendigo-trained Tatunka did last year.
But Hearps said the Oaks day final had never been on his eight-year-old's radar, with Wednesday's run just his first since his fourth in the $125,000 Swan Hill Cup in June.
"I was really happy with how he finished off, especially when he was underdone," he said.
"He'll be spot on for 17-days time in the Donald Cup.
"The (Oaks day) final is next week, so he was always going to the cups.
"But he went super today, he was really good. I was really happy with him.
"It was a bit short for him, but he kept getting home.
"He's pulled good, but tomorrow (Thursday) will tell the story," he added post-race.
Further advanced in his preparation this time last year, Vungers finished fourth in the rich country final at Flemington before going on to score emphatic back-to-back cup wins at Donald and Wodonga.
Tatunka, who finished third at Flemington last year, missed a spot in this year's race, finishing seventh on Wednesday, one place ahead of another Bendigo galloper, All Too Terrific.
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