Paul Murray is hoping in-form three-year-old El Lago can put Four Pillars slot holders on notice when the gelding chases a hat-trick of wins in Thursday's Mitch Manners Benchmark 64 Handicap (1400m) at Kembla Grange.
El Lago headlines a two-pronged attack from the Murray yard in the final event on the eight-race midweek card with stablemate We're Off also set to line up.
Consecutive victories at Moruya and Nowra will see El Lago return to home turf in top form after enjoying a short break following the second of those wins.
Murray brought the son of El Roca back into work in a bid to earn him a spot in the $700,000 Four Pillars (1500m), set to be staged for the first time on Golden Eagle day at Rosehill on October 30.
"He is going really good and only had two weeks off after his last run when a couple of people rang to ask to see if he was up to the Four Pillars," Murray said "I said yes and we are aiming at that now so we will have Thursday's run and then if he gets picked, that will be his next start."
El Lago is currently rated a $51 outsider with TAB to win the Four Pillars with two thirds of the 18-horse field locked in for the lucrative new feature. If El Lago fails to earn a spot, Murray also has another big feature event on his radar early for El Lago in the New Year.
"Our main aim will be in New Zealand for the Karaka Millions next year," Murray confirmed.
El Lago was a $35,000 yearling purchase from the Karaka Millions in 2020 and the three-year-old will be eligible for the $1 million Karaka Millions 3YO Classic at Ellerslie on January 22. But Murray is keen to see El Lago continue his strong run closer to home before looking across the Tasman.
"He has done very well and I think he has mentally improved since his last run," Murray said. "At his two wins, he was very raw in both but he has improved since then. I think he has grown up a lot."
Murray has enlisted the services of local apprentice Brock Ryan to pilot El Lago while stablemate We're Off will be ridden by Jeff Penza. We're Off has been knocking on the door of a win with three placings from five starts this preparation.
"He's been doing well and keeps improving every time we send him to the races," Murray said. El Lago is the $3.40 favourite on TAB while We're Off is $5.50 for Thursday's assignment.