Plans to run Lautaro in the Wagga Cup have changed with the gelding to be re-routed to Randwick after winning his way to the $400,000 Country Championship final.
Trained by Andrew Dale at Albury, the five-year-old former New Zealander got up in the last strides of Sunday's regional heat on his home track to beat Forever Newyork by a short half head.
"I was planning to run him in the Wagga Cup after this but might have to change my thinking," Dale told Sky Thoroughbred Central.
Dale trains between eight and 10 horses and inherited Lautaro from his friend, New Zealand trainer Kevin Myers.
"I need to thank Kevin. He's been tremendous to me. I owe it to him with this horse," Dale said.
"I have a small team but I've got good staff and family helping."
Lautaro ($21) was ridden by Nick Souquet and he and Brendan Ward on Forever Newyork ($10) made their runs together from back in the field.
"His work leading up to this has been nothing short of sensational and I thought if I could just get him a smother for as long as I could, I knew he'd run me a real good sectional," Souquet said.
The runner-up, trained by Gary Colvin, also qualifies for the final.
"He was a bit underdone," Colvin said.
"He'll improve heaps off that."
The final chance for horses to qualify to go to the Randwick feature on April 1 comes next Sunday in the Wild Card at Muswellbrook for horses from all areas who have not made it through in their regional heats.
G1 - The Bet365 Celebration Steeple Chase (class 1)
G3 - The Bet365 Gold Cup Steeple Chase (handicap) (class 1)
G1 - Aes Champion 4yo Hdle
Grade B - Setanta Sport H'cap Hdle
Grade B - Palmerstown House Pat Taaffe H'cap Chase