Veteran trainer Ross Price said the Bunbury Cup (2200m) on March 23 now looms as a realistic proposition for his talented gelding Hakuna Matata.
That scenario seemed improbable when Hakuna Matata commenced his campaign five months ago, but the five-year-old has suddenly shot to prominence.
After taking 19 starts to shed his maiden status Hakuna Matata has hit top gear and notched a winning hatrick including his first city victory at Ascot on Saturday.
Price admits Hakuna Matata’s form turnaround has caught him by surprise and says the daughter of Mastercraftsman, once tagged a dour plodder had developed into a promising stayer.
“Last campaign the horse was an absolute plodder and he couldn’t sprint at all,” Price told Tabradio’s The Sports Daily.
“The owner (Trevor Delroy) was really undecided if he would actually give him another campaign to be quite honest.
“When we brought him back he started to sprint a little better and is learning how to do that at the end of his races.
“In a staying race he can stay and sprint at the finish to really turn around his form this campaign.
“After his last win in Perth we decided to keep doing what we are doing and throw him into the Bunbury Cup.
“Whether he gets a start I don’t know, but we know he will get the distance and be as fit as anything in the race.
“Whether he has the ability we will see on the day.”
Meanwhile Price has not ruled out stable mate My Magic Miss causing an upset in the Listed Prince Of Wales Hotel Cup (2019m) at Bunbury on Sunday.
The five-year-old mare has raced just once this year, finishing well back behind Baraki Beats (1500m) when returning at Ascot in February.
My Magic Miss won three races over 2000m at Belmont and Bunbury last year, but has the task ahead of her against strong opposition.
The line-up includes in-form gelding, Material Man, Tonto, Falcon Crest and Zarantz who returns for new trainers, Grant and Alana Williams.
Price said My Magic Miss should not be underestimated.
“She has done a lot of beach work which is good at this time of the year and is pretty much up to the mark for this race,” Price said.
“She is going very well and I think she can run a pretty good race actually.”
Joe Azzopardi, who has partnered My Magic Miss to all four career wins, will jump from barrier two.
RWWA: Julio Santarelli