Justine Erkelens has high hopes Vital Blast can improve and go one better in the Devil’s Lair Plate (1000m) at Ascot on Saturday.
Erkelens’ confidence is based on the two-year-old’s outstanding debut two weeks ago when he ran a gallant second to Vexilloid.
The Vital Equine gelding had to do it the tough way after sitting wide on top of the speed and had every excuse to fade out.
But in a top sign going forward Vital Blast proved his toughness, fighting the race out to finish 1 ¾ lengths from the winner.
“He did it so hard for his first run and I was surprised how well he pulled up from the run,” said Erkelens on Tabradio.
“He had every opportunity to pack it in, but he is so tough and is just a natural race horse.
“There are some nice horses in the race, but it would be really good if he could step out and be up there.
“He has drawn well, is a nice horse, has pulled up terrifically well and should be thereabouts.”
Top apprentice, Aaron Mitchell, fresh from an Ascot treble last week, retains the mount on Vital Blast. In a field of ten starters they jump from barrier four.
Vital Blast sits on the third line of TAB betting at $4.40. Heading the market is first starter, Fabergino ($3.20) and Resistance ($4.20).
Fabergino, prepared by Tiarnna Robertson at Bennett Springs, holds favouritism after posting an impressive trial win on April 18.
The Fred Kersley-trained Resistance also has strong claims after racing on pace and shedding her maiden status three weeks ago.
Jarrad Noske will accompany Fabergino from barrier eight. Ben Paterson and Resistance are on her outside in gate nine.
Erkelens concedes Tucky’s Lad has been set a hard task, but believes the Oratorio gelding is in the right frame of mind to handle the challenge.
Tucky’s Lad has won his past two races at Ascot and Pinjarra in good order, but faces a class rise in the Lavazza Handicap (1600m).
“It’s a strong field and he is up in grade, but there wasn’t another race for him,” Erkelens said.
“He is in a good head space and Brad (Parnham) seems to get along with him great.
“He has come out of the last run extremely well and he is ready to go.”
In an open race Tucky’s Lad, is rated an $8.50 chance. North Ridge and Dezzies Dream are fighting for favouritism.