Exciting prospect Night's Watch is the early favourite to secure a ballot exemption into several spring features when he steps up to Group company for the first time in the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes.
The son of Westbury Stud stallion Redwood is scheduled to back-up in Saturday's 1600m weight-for-age race at Moonee Valley after an impressive win in a 1400m open handicap last week at Caulfield.
He was the $3.30 favourite on Wednesday in a field of 11 for the Dato, and trainer Darren Weir is keen to get Night's Watch into the $5 million Caulfield Cup (2400m) this spring.
Saturday's race could achieve that as the race carries a ballot exemption for the winner into the Caulfield Cup, as well as the Cox Plate.
Night's Watch, who began his career in New Zealand with Peter and Dawn Williams, will take on some established big-race performers on Saturday including multiple Group One winner Hartnell and New Zealand star and defending champion Bonneval.
They occupy the next two lines of early betting at $3.80 and $7 respectively.
Hartnell was narrowly beaten in the PB Lawrence Stakes (1400m) by Showtime first-up and trainer James Cummings believes the three-week gap since that race suits.
"He's as bright as a button and capable of running well again," Cummings said.
Mick Price has Mighty Boss and Hiyaam in the Dato and the trainer said Mighty Boss had come on a lot fitnes-wise since his unplaced run first-up in the Lawrence.
He expects an improved showing from Mighty Boss while he believes Hiyaam, who is on a Caulfield Cup path, can be strong late in the race.
Price is keen to stretch Mighty Boss beyond 1600m for the first time this campaign.
He also hopes the Chelmsford Stakes win last weekend from the Chris Waller-trained ATC Australian Oaks winner and now Caulfield Cup second favourite Unforgotten provides the right form reference for Hiyaam's Cup prospects next month.
Hiyaam beat Unforgotten with a bold front-running display in the Group One Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m) during autumn before Unforgotten turned the tables again when they filled the quinella in the 2400m Oaks.