THE Listed Lord Stakes (1700m) at Caulfield on Boxing Day looms on the horizon for Hi Stranger following the ever-improving Bendigo galloper's win in Sunday's $160,000 Listed Kilmore Cup (1600m).
Back to his pet distance of 1600m, the Shane Fliedner-trained gelding continued an impressive 18-month run of form by recording his second country cup win this year, with Damien Thornton claiming the riding honours.
The five-year-old added to his impressive triumph in the $100,000 Echuca Cup (1400m) in March, swamping his rivals late to prevail by three-quarters of a length over the frontrunner Imperial Lad, with Tibetan, for fellow Bendigo trainer Matthew Enright, producing a magnificent run for third
Hi Stranger picked up his second win of the 2021-22 racing season from five starts.
An even more impressive calendar year has produced four wins and three placings from 14 starts and a solid fourth in the $200,000 Group 3 Chatham Stakes (1400m) at Flemington on Mackinnon Stakes Day.
Fliedner said the Lord Stakes on Boxing Day, won last year by the Patrick Payne-trained Defibrillate, would now be the aim for Hi Stranger, with the gelding likely to have one run in-between in a 1600m open handicap on Pakenham Cup day (December 4).
The astute trainer could not have been any more impressed with his win at Kilmore.
"He was around the mark, but he stepped up in weight - a fair bit in weight actually (3.5kg) - and he was on an on-speed, leaders biased track and it was a hard track, so he had a few things against him," he said.
"I did say to Damien (Thornton), we won't keep pushing him down the hill (at Kilmore) because sometimes when you push them down the hill they lose their action.
"It's a bit tricky coming down that hill, especially if you haven't done it before. That was my main worry.
"I was prepared to let him lose a bit of ground travelling down the hill and said to Damien not to do anything before he straightened - ease him out on the corner and keep him to produce one late run.
"He's got an explosive finish from about the 400m, which he has.
"I was pretty confident on Sunday - the track was my only worry."
Sunday's win boosted Hi Stranger's career record to eight wins and 10 placings from 38 starts for $671,300 in prize money.
Fliedner said the gelding had continued to raise the bar in his race day performances.
"I keep saying he's not a champion, but he is a good horse - a good horse who keeps knocking over races," he said.
"And he's got a while left in him still.
"Boxing Day will be his last run this time in. He'll have three or four weeks off and hang around the stable, or I might give him a week or so off in the paddock.
"He'll come back and we'll get ready for some serious races in the autumn."
After long toying with the idea and eventually giving Hi Stranger the one start over 2000m, Fliedner acknowledges 1600m is unquestionably the son of Zoffany and the mare Luxury Suite's best distance.
"I tried him over 2000m at Moonee Valley and we travelled good, but he just didn't get it," he said.
"He might have been flat going into it, it's hard to say, but I won't push the buttons.
"I had a try at it and I've always wanted to have a try at it. He was only beaten four-lengths by a Group 1 horse, so what do you do.
"He's a little beauty anyhow."
Fliedner will saddle up one runner at Bendigo on Thursday, with the three-year-old Zedemski to contest the 1100m maiden (race two).
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