De Little Engine grinds out strong staying win


De Little Engine by name, big motor by nature.

Danny O’Brien’s progressive stayer was set a stern staying challenge at Sandown on Saturday and the four-year-old accepted it with a grinding win in the KS Environmental Handicap (2400m), allowing O’Brien and Co the indulgence to dream.

The first step to what might be a bigtime staying future will come in the Bagot Handicap at Flemington on New Year’s Day, a traditional summer staying test that has launched the occasional promising stayer to far greater things.

“With staying horses like him you just have to be a little bit patient with them and he’s only just turned four,’’ O’Brien said.

“He’s always shown enough promise and these two races (Ballarat two starts back and Sandown on Saturday) are giving us a little bit of hope to dream.’’

A race that looked a straightforward task for the odds-on favourite pre-race became a far more arduous task because of a howling wind that made even the sprint races tests of stamina.

On top of that, De Little Engine sported the leaders at least six lengths turning for home.

“In the end he just out-stayed them,’’ an impressed O’Brien said.

Jockey Chad Schofield said the win was at least as good as De Little Engine’s big margin romp at Ballarat.

“Had a lot of work to do (at the top of the straight) but I knew they went pretty quick throughout – there was no slackening of the tempo at any stage,’’ he said.

“I’d almost say that was better than Ballarat. He had a lot of work to do. I was quite impressed. He’s a promising young stayer.’’

The day produced a mixed bag in three states for O’Brien.

Debutante Mr Humphries missed the start before flashing home for second at Morphettville and Beauty’s Beast scrambled to victory at Rosehill.

Story by Matt Stewart, to view full Herald Sun Super Racing story click here

Photo by Bruno Cannatelli, to view Bruno's website click here 

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