COLAC district-owned gelding Whelan will attempt to win back-to-back Colac Gold Cups in 2012.
Warrnambool trainer Symon Wilde confirmed this week he and his co-trainer, his father Bill Wilde, were preparing the eight-year-old stayer for a second tilt at the cup.
Whelan powered home to win the 2011 Colac Gold Cup with Wayne Hokai aboard, delivering Yeo owners Doug and Mary Ann Parker their first home-town cup.
Wilde said Whelan would run in the Penshurst Cup on Boxing Day en route to the Colac Gold Cup on February 26.
He said only a disastrous performance at Penshurst would prevent connections from continuing with the plan.
Whelan has had two starts this preparation – a last of six at Hamilton over 1400 metres and a fourth of five at Stawell over 1600 metres – since resuming on November 21.
But Wilde said he was confident of a better showing over 2000 metres, the distance of the Colac Gold Cup.
“He’ll run in the Penshurst Cup on Boxing Day and that’ll be the intention, if he runs well he’ll run at Colac,” he said.
“He’s only had the two runs at shorter trips, but he’s at his best at 2000 metres. We’ll look for a bit of an improved showing at Penshurst and he should be cherry ripe for Colac.”
Wilde said the Colac Gold Cup was the main summer aim for Whelan.
“That’s about his limit, I think he’s reached his mark at that open handicap in the bush,” he said.
“To not head on to Colac he’d have to run a long last or something like that at Penshurst.
“He has to run a nice-ish race and onwards we go. We’re looking for an encouraging run.”
Doug Parker trained the gelding at Colac but sent him to the Warrnambool father-and-son team 18 months ago frustrated the temperamental horse was failing to live up to his potential.
Wilde said Parker had owned runners which had finished runner-up in the Colac Gold Cup twice, which made Whelan’s win in February the more special.
But going back-to-back as Colac Turf Club celebrates the 150th cup would have new meaning all together.
Hokai, the most successful jockey in Colac Gold Cup history, has signalled his intentions to be in Colac on cup day and could team up with the Wildes and Parkers for the historic tilt.
Whelan is the second horse with Colac district connections in line to contest the 150th cup.
Yeo trainer Mark Young said on Sunday the cup was on the radar for his seven-year-old Ship In The Night, which finished second in the 2010 edition won by General Mackjosh.