The luck of the draw always plays a role when it comes to the racing turf, but Dubbo trainer Dar Lunn has received a big boost in prospects this weekend after gaining an entry into Saturday's Gooree Cup.
Lunn's seven-year-old gelding Zoutenant hadn't been expected to appear, but an unfortunate scratching for trainer Kris Lees has not only given the horse a start, but a primed barrier right in the thick of the action.
"The barrier absolutely makes a lot of difference, if you can get anywhere in that one to five area, that's going to be good for him, you can be anywhere you sort of want to be with a horse from there," Lunn said.
"He'll be in there somewhere travelling and he's doing really well since his race the other day."
Zoutenant will start from the third barrier, nestled between Brett Thompson's Attalea and Geoff O'Brien's Vega De Lago.
An imposing field of well stocked talent make up the rest of the starters, with the Gooree Cup tilt representing a big step up in competition for Zoutenant, with Lunn admitting his horse will have to be 'at his best' to have a chance at a win.
"It's a pretty strong race, but he's third up which is good and he's backing up from the other day at Narromine," Lunn said.
That win came across 1100m last week, with only seven days between that successful result and the Gooree Cup.
"He's going to need a lot of luck, it's the toughest race he's ran in a long time."
While the Gooree Cup is contested over 1400m, Lunn doesn't expect the distance to play a factor in his horse's stakes, with the longer trail being Zoutenant's preferred length.
"It was the 1100 the other day and he did good down that, but his best distance is 1400m when he's ready, so I expect him to go well, he's certainly not far off his peak," Lunn said.
While Lunn would love to see a win for the seven-year-old, he's also not putting all his eggs in one basket and would be happy to see Zoutenant simply continue the strong run of form in the unusual circumstances.
"I think he just needs to run a nice enough race and he'll be up there, even if he can run a nice fourth or fifth, I'd walk away pretty happy, he's still got a fair bit of improvement left in him, I think," Lunn said.
Also riding for Lunn on the day will be Helstar, who's contesting the earlier benchmark 58 handicap and will share a jockey with Zoutenant in Travis Wolfgram.
"Travis is great, he rides really good and he's taken a few runs on Helstar before and won, he hasn't paired with Zoutenant yet, but I think he'll do fine," Lunn said.
The race represents a somewhat easier test for Helstar, who Lunn expects a strong performance from.