Hugo could set off a huge birthday party, Latest Racing News - The New Paper

Hugo could set off a huge birthday party

Stephen Gray has eyes on the Group 2 EW Barker Trophy

A win is a win. So they say. But sometimes a win can be a stepping stone to an even bigger win and, from there, so they say, the sky's the limit.

Well, trainer Stephen Gray isn't looking at great things for his charge, Hugo. But he certainly has his eyes focused on a feature race coming up on Sunday week.

That's the Group 2 EW Barker Trophy.

It's a 1,400m race on turf and Gray reckons it's a realistic target for Hugo.

But first, there's this Saturday's $70,000 Class 3 Division 1 race over 1,200m on the Polytrack.

That's Hugo's initial target and a win could slingshot him to a grand show in the EW Barker.

There's another reason for Gray wanting a victory - or two - this Saturday and Sunday week.

He celebrates his 56th birthday on Nov 9 and is looking for a reason to raise a glass or two.

The EW Barker Trophy race is always run around this time in November and Gray's two previous wins - with Born To Fly in 2014 and Lim's Cruiser in 2016 - certainly paved the way to even bigger parties later on.

While Hugo is more of a Polytrack horse, given all his five wins from 1,000m to 1,200m were registered on that surface, Gray has always been keen to get one of the stable favourites back on grass.

The EW Barker Trophy on Nov 15 is the ideal opportunity.

"We'll have a crack at the EW Barker if he runs well this Saturday. I've always wondered about putting him back on grass," said Gray.

"It's a race that has been good to us. He'll get in at a low weight if he gets a run. He seems good, he tries hard. It's a strong race this week, and he'll be up in weight, though, and that's why I booked Simon (Kok Wei Hoong).

"It's hard to get a rider these days, and we were lucky we got Simon. He picked up five points after the win, and the two-kilo claim will be a bit of help.

"Matty (Kellady) picked up the ride last start and rode him well, but I wanted a claimer just to take the weight off as he's not an overly big horse."

Kellady stepped up to the plate when Vlad Duric was stood down at the Kranji meeting on Oct 3, navigating Hugo home despite being caught wide for most of the Class 3 race over 1,000m.

Hugo aside, Gray saddles two runners in Race 6 which is the other Class 3 race over 1,200m.

They are Darc Bounty and No Fun No Gain, but the level of confidence is noticeably a few notches below.

"Darc Bounty loves the 1,000m (four of his six wins), but it's hard to find a Class 3 race over that trip for him," he said.

"But there was no other choice, and the 1,200m should be good enough for him. He'll be running on.

"As for No Fun No Gain, to be fair, he was given terrible rides at his first two runs back, but he's still struggling to find form.

"If he drops to Class 4, he'll probably be hard to beat."