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Co-trainer Tom Dabernig is confident the stable’s 2016 Magic Millions 2YO Classic hope Highland Beat is on the improve ahead of his tough test at the Gold Coast on Saturday.
A capacity field of juveniles face off in this season’s $2 million Magic Millions 2YO Classic (1200m) with the Peter & Paul Snowden-trained Capitalist the odds-on favourite at $1.80 through Ladbrokes.com.au.
Last seen winning the Wyong Magic Millions Classic on December 17, Capitalist came up trumps with barrier two for Saturday while the David Hayes & Dabernig-trained Highland Beat drew 12.
Lindsay Park’s nicely-bred Exceed And Excel colt will come into as close as barrier eight if the emergencies fail to get a run in the Restricted Listed feature, with in-form Victorian jockey Damian Lane booked for the ride.
It is Lane’s first ride at the Gold Coast, but he has winning form on Highland Beat who he rode to an all-the-way two and a quarter length victory along the rail over 1000m at Moonee Valley on December 11.
That followed a ninth on debut with Michael Walker riding behind Missrock in Caulfield’s Listed Debutant Stakes (1000m) from October.
Highland Beat, who handled the tight turns at the Valley well that bodes well for his run at the Gold Coast circuit on Saturday, was last seen running second from a wide barrier (10 of 11) over 1200m at Randwick on Boxing Day with Brenton Avdulla in the saddle.
He held the front-running that day too before being outsprinted late by Jeanneau.
“He was just a little bit unbalanced, I think, the first time under race pressure going that way and he drew a wide gate,” Dabernig told AAP this week.
“He had to make a bit of use of him early and I thought he actually ran well. There’s improvement in him, that’s the main thing.”
Dabernig said the up-and-comer had come on well since and was better for the run the Sydney way of going, which he’ll see again on Saturday in the MM Classic, and is happy to have current fourth seeded hoop in the Melbourne jockeys’ premiership Lane aboard.
“He’ll be all the better for having had that run on the Sydney leg and he’s done well since that race,” he said.
“Our horse is an Exceed And Excel. He can take a handy position and I think a lot of it comes down to that track.
“There’s always a lot of pressure, and we’ll see what happens.”
In the latest Magic Millions 2YO Classic odds Highland Beat pays $26 to score the upset.
Hayes & Dabernig meanwhile are also likely to saddle-up Gracious Prospect in Saturday’s $1 million Magic Millions Cup (1400m), while Catch A Fire and Moral Outrage are chasing runs in the $250,000 Magic Millions Maiden Plate (1200m).
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