Trainer Brett Pope is convinced Divine Shadow can progress to stakes grade and record a career-best win in the Blue Spec Drilling Boulder Cup (2105m) at Kalgoorlie on Sunday.
Pope, in search of his first feature victory in Kalgoorlie, said Divine Shadow proved he was capable of going the next step after a slashing run in the Coolgardie Cup (1760m).
Storming home from near last position on straightening, Divine Shadow finished a close-up third to Western Temple, clocking the equal fastest final 600m with runner-up Friar Fox.
Pope said Divine Shadow’s powerful finishing burst gave him cause to believe that the five-year-old could mix it with seasoned black-type stayers in the Boulder Cup.
“There was a slight query going into the Coolgardie Cup to see if he was up to that type of company, but he proved he was up to the big boys,” Pope told The Races WA.
“He was up against a class rise, but it was very pleasing how he went.
“He had to go back from a wide draw, but really ran through the line strongly.
“There are a lot of proven stayers in the Boulder Cup, including Ihtsahymn, but I think he will be more than competitive.”
Group 1 champion Ihtsahymn headlines a field of 10 starters in the Boulder Cup. A winner of a second Darwin Cup (2050m) in August, the son of Ihtiram shoulders top weight of 60kg.
Third to Spiritual Warrior in last year’s Kalgoorlie Cup (2200m), the veteran 10-year-old will start from barrier eight. Peter Hall retains the mount.
On the 54kg minimum, Divine Shadow has drawn barrier six. Troy Tuner, in search of his third Boulder Cup success, has the ride.
“He is versatile and can either go back or forward,” Pope said.
“Troy is one of the best staying riders and hopefully he can do it again.”
Pope said taking on the Coolgardie Cup, Boulder Cup and Kalgoorlie Cup treble had been an afterthought for Divine Shadow.
The Blackfriars gelding was in the paddock spelling after a lengthy seven month campaign.
He won two races at Ascot and Belmont and placed on eight occasions from 11 starts between February and July.
“It wasn’t my intention to bring him back, but he was bucking around at home and was doing too good,” Pope said.
“I thought he had enough as it was a pretty long campaign.
“He’ll have these three runs in Kalgoorlie and then will go out again.”