Ballarat trainers Tony and Calvin McEvoy now have a Caulfield Cup on the table as a reachable goal with comeback stayer Secret Blaze.
The six-year-old showed he is right back to the peak of his powers with a strong victory in the group 3 $200,000 JRA Cup, 2040m, at Moonee Valley on Friday night.
The win means Secret Blaze has now passed the ballot clause for the $5m Caulfield Cup, 2400m, on Saturday, October 16.
Secret Blaze ($5.50) finished almost a length clear of Australian Cup winner Homesman ($4), with Rostropovich ($31) third.
Secret Blaze's first win since December 2019 also provided a training triumph for the McEvoys, with it coming at his fourth start back after more than 12 months off the scene with injury.
"I am just so pleased for the horse," Tonby McEvoy said.
"He's come back from a setback like a tendon."
McEvoy praised the temperament of Secret Blaze.
"He's just a great gentleman to deal with. He's been a great patient all the way through and it was lovely to see him get back and win at this level."
Friday night's run was his first in a month, with Secret Blaze having missed a planned start leading up the outing.
'Missing a run did not really concern me. We decided to just train him on strongly with a couple of gallops away from home.
"He's a good athlete and it was a pretty easy task to keep him up to the mark."
McEvoy said it would a dream to get a run in the Caulfield Cup, but there was stack of races for this fellow.
"We can go to the Coongy or Herbert Power, or even maybe that big dance (Caulfield Cup).
"I don't know. It was just lovely to see him back in form," he said.
McEvoy said with their stable still going through a rebuild, it was going to be a testing spring.
"It's very exciting to win a race of this standard."
Jockey Craig Williams said full credit to McEvoy and his team for being patient with Secret Blaze to get him back after a long lay-off with injury.
"He was very impressive. He's a gentleman to ride."
Secret Blze has won seven of 30 starts for $711,000 in earnings.
MEANWHILE, Ballarat apprentice jockey Alana Kelly continues to impress.
She added to her tally of metropolitan winners on Lombardo ($2.30 favourite) for Mick Price and Michael Kent junior in the MSC Signs Handicap, 1200m, at The Valley on Friday night.
It gives her nine Melbourne metropolitan class winners.