The tightest of finishes and a ride on the rail saw Huetor spoil the party in last year’s Doomben Cup.
Paying +1400 and with 200m left of the journey, Kerrin McEvoy popped the question of the Peter & Paul Snowden-trained gelding to pass the favourite in Zaaki and take the A$1 million Group 1.
He returns as a +1100 chance to defend his title this Saturday and if successful will become the first in three decades to win the feature in consecutive years.
Trainer Paul Snowden is confident heading into what could be a history-making affair for his six-year-old.
“Huetor is going better this year – the form suggests he is,” Snowden said.
“The horse has gone to another level from last year.
“Last year Zaaki beat us more than three lengths in the Hollindale, but this year he (Huetor) has run him to a close second.
“I can only comment on how our bloke is going and we are very happy.”
Also returning is the Annabel Neasham-trained Zaaki, who ran third last year and is once again favourite (+100) off the back of a great run finishing second in the Group 1 All Aged Stakes and having taken his third Group 2 AD Hollindale Stakes earlier this month.
He has won it before, beating Toffee Tongue by a thumping seven-length margin in the 2021 edition.
The Leroidesanimaux x Kesara gelding is a 15-time winner with four Group 1 titles to his name and over $10 million in prizemoney.
It is expected he will be lifted to another level under James McDonald, retained after that win in the Hollindale, with the memories of last year’s defeat looming large.
The talented Chris Waller runner Kovalica (+650) will challenge here after being scratched last week due to a foot injury, with James Orman booked to ride.
The lone three-year-old in the field has won five of his last seven starts, including the Group 2 Queensland Guineas.
“He had a sore foot (on Saturday morning), it is nothing major, we trotted him up and the vet said he could probably run,” Waller said.
“We chose not to because he is a decent horse because he was nominated for the Doomben Cup.”
Waller has said that Kovalica has what it takes to back up with the run in the Doomben Cup to tackle the Group 1 Queensland Derby next week.
“The whole carnival up here has been good for us, it has been a launching pad for so many horses, so it fits in well to our system.”
The Doomben track is currently graded a Heavy 8, but with rain not forecasted again until late next week at the earliest it is sure to be downgraded, making conditions more suitable for Zaaki.