Surf Dancer was thrown into the deep end – and he responded with a Shannon Stakes victory at Rosehill.
The six-year-old gelding's last start was a victory in the South Grafton Cup on July 10, so Saturday was always going to be a big step up for him.
But he brilliantly answered the call from co-trainers Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott, taking the lead from the turn and beating Old Flame home from the Peter and Paul Snowden stable.
Could Surf Dancer have his backers cutting a rug for his next assignment, The Big Dance, over a mile on November 1?
2022 Shannon Stakes Replay
Bott believes he will be up to the task after Saturday's triumph, which saw Ladbrokes favourite Ellsberg lead for most of the Group 2 feature over 1500m, before Surf Dancer's classy finish.
“We'll give him a couple of runs into the Big Dance,” Bott told Sky Racing.
“There's another run – we'll just have to weigh up what that is.
“Today was going to be the deciding factor with how forward we felt he was, and how far up in grade we'd go.
“So it was good to see him improving at this class. I guess we threw him into the deep end coming here today, but he's responded very well.”
With 53.5kg on his back, Bott was confident of a strong finish.
“He looked decent. He retained plenty of residual fitness off that short turnaround (runner-up in a trial over 1050m at Randwick on September 13),” he said.
“When we were able to get to that nice spot outside the lead, with 53kg I thought he'd be very hard to run down from there.”
He was aboard Nimalee for Matthew Smith, the two combining to salute in the Golden Pendant.
“You're happy just sitting outside of him (Ellsberg, 58.5kg). My bloke had a good weight edge today on Ellsberg, and gee he's been flying home,” Bayliss said.
“it's just taken him a couple of preps to hit his straps. I think he's in for his biggest campaign yet.
“He actually exploded today – he showed a really good turn of foot.
“He's progressing nicely and he's going to be mighty hard to beat in the Big Dance.”