Surprise Baby (outside) finishing second to Steel Prince in the Andrew Ramsden (Image: Racing Photos)
He won a 3200-metre Cup at just his sixth start but Surprise Baby's trainer Paul Preusker has cautioned punters against assuming Saturday's 1600-metre Feehan Stakes at The Valley is out of his reach.
"He's a unique horse," Preusker declared on RSN927's Racing Pulse. "I do feel you could pop him down the (Flemington) straight and if you squeezed him, he would be there.
"We are going there - this is a bring-on run - but from that gate (10 of 15), he gets a lovely run and if they go solid enough he'll be one of the ones coming.
"He's going well the horse. I've got him where I want him, and he'll give you everything."
Surprise Baby's record stands at eight starts for four wins, which include an Adelaide Cup, and a most memorable second placing when he was nosed out by Steel Prince in the Andrew Ramsden Stakes in May - when victory would have clinched a ballot-free run into the Melbourne Cup.
Preusker said Surprise Baby was so capable largely because he is so versatile and durable.
"He's a very trainable horse," he said. "You can put the work into him and he thrives, so it makes it really easy.
"He's a horse you can pour plenty of work into and he keeps putting his head in the head collar and looking for more."
The Horsham trainer is not used to racing's biggest stage, which is where he will find himself and his horse if his predications come true this spring.
"It's a unique situation that I haven't been in before so it's going to be interesting to see where it goes but the staying horses that I've got, they can't match him," he said.
Preusker won last year's Feehan with outsider Magic Consol and he said he had no hesitation kicking off Surprise Baby's spring campaign at the track.
"I just like them going to The Valley," he said. "It gives them a good hard hit-out and they come off it good.
The trainer said he had noticed changes in the horse since the autumn.
"He's a bit more tradesmanlike and for that alone, he's just a better type of horse all around," he said.
"There's still that will to gallop there. After a big prep like that (autumn) you are mindful they can fade a bit on you and you've got to dig a bit, but he's just there from day one again."
Surprise Baby must win a qualifying race to get into the Melbourne Cup field and Preusker has long had a target.
"The first one (spring goal) is obviously The Bart Cummings, depending on how he comes up and hopefully we can close the deal there," he said of the race that provides its winner ballot-free exemption into the Melbourne Cup.
"He's a super horse to train and I do even feel that if we got to The Bart Cummings, there wouldn't be much more to do but I am open on that."
Surprise Baby has been supported from $17 to $14 with BetEasy to win the Feehan while his Melbourne Cup price is $34.