Scaling Everest, then on to the Cup

Big Duke will take another step towards a possible Melbourne Cup berth when he runs at Randwick on Everest Day.

Big Duke will take another step towards a possible Melbourne Cup berth when he runs at Randwick on Everest Day.

He might be in line to win the richest race on the Australian racing calendar, but Jamie Lovett will have another eye on how he can win the second-most lucrative, too, within the next month when his sprinting and staying stars converge on Randwick.

Lovett is a director of Australian Bloodstock, which will run Brave Smash in the $10 million The Everest before Big Duke's Melbourne Cup aspirations go on the line in the rejuvenated St Leger, a highlight of the undercard.

And local interest will be high, with Brave Smash part-owned by Dubbo businessman Lloyd Walker and Big Duke part of the string of horses owned by Mendooran couple John and Julie Hunter.

Victorian trainer Darren Weir could use the Prince Of Penzance Moonee Valley Gold Cup springboard to give Big Duke a final tune-up before the race that stops the nation.

But connections first have eyes on another successful Sydney raid with Big Duke, who was Weir's maiden NSW winner this year via a stewards' room decision in the Chairman's Handicap.

Big Duke has won two of his four starts in Sydney to complement a pair of group 1 placings in the Sydney Cup and last start in The Metropolitan, but Lovett thinks the six-year-old is just as effective on his Melbourne leg.

"It's hard to say because he was very convincing, albeit in lower grade, on Boxing Day at Caulfield when he put a field away by seven [lengths]," said Lovett, who already has a three-handled loving cup in the trophy cabinet courtesy of Protectionist.

"I think it was just a matter of getting him to his right trips when he came to Sydney. He's certainly an adaptable horse and he probably lacks that real class, but he's just a tough bugger.

"He's on track. He was probably a run short at a mile-and-a-half [in The Metropolitan] and he went from a mile-and-a-quarter to a mile-and-a-half and he was good, but just peaked late. He's trained on and as you saw last prep he thrives on a bit of racing so he should be right in the race.

"Provided he turns up you know he's the type of horse the 2600 metres won't pose a problem for."

The St Leger has been reintroduced to the spring calendar to provide back-up for The Everest, which has dominated headlines in the Sydney spring.

Big Duke was a $2.90 favourite with Sportsbet on Thursday as he inches towards a Melbourne Cup berth.

"Last prep the deeper he got into it the trip brought him on and he appeared to thrive, obviously in the first Sydney Cup on the quick back-up he was there to win," Lovett said.

"If we can fit another run I don't think it will hurt him."