TRAINER Dan McCarthy has set his sights on the group 1 Goodwood Handicap with his stable star Ashlor.
The slick sprinter earned a shot at the $1 million feature after scoring a thrilling win in the $100,000 Eldorado at Wangaratta on Sunday.
Black Caviar won the feature sprint in 2012 before her famous victory at Royal Ascot.
Ashlor stamped himself as the best sprinter in the region with a tenacious victory over a gallant Widgee Turf in the 1300-metre feature.
The pair staged a thrilling duel over the final furlong with Ashlor prevailing by a short half-head.
The classy duo gapped the rest of the field by over six lengths.
"It was a fascinating contest and turned into a two horse war," McCarthy said.
"I thought Ashlor over-raced for the first 600 metres with the slow tempo so that just adds further merit to the win.
“He doesn’t win by big margins but he wins, that is now 11 from 26, not many horses do that.”
The victory was Ashlor's first in excess of 1200-metres.
McCarthy said he had little doubt Ashlor could run a strong mile.
"I can see why people query if Ashlor can run further than 1200-metres but it's certainly not a query for me," he said.
"I still think he will run 1600-metres eventually.
"It will have to be in the right race at the right time but under the right conditions he will get further."
McCarthy admitted he was surprised after connections of the runner-up fired in a protest.
"I was surprised when there was a protest and was even more surprised when I seen the vision because there was nothing in it," he said.
"I thought it was pretty frivolous and the jockey was clutching at straws a bit."
Although most of Ashlor's wins have come after a freshen-up, McCarthy said his galloper was versatile.
"I think he just races well all the time," he said.
"He has backed-up a few times and won once but we just haven't asked him to do it a lot."
Ashlor will now have a freshen-up before targeting the Vobis Gold Sprint at Caulfield on April 27.
The classy sprinter finished third in the $300,000 feature last year, beaten just under one length.
McCarthy then plans to set Ashlor for the $1 million Goodwood Handicap at Morphettville on May 18.
Ashlor has previously proved competitive in group 1 company after running sixth in the $1 million Winterbottom Stakes late last year at Ascot.
McCarthy said Ashlor was unlucky in the Caulfield sprint last year.
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