Stuart Webb admits he is surprised by the steps Great Esteem has made since joining his Caulfield stable.
Great Esteem will face his biggest test when he contests the Group Three Naturalism Stakes at Caulfield on Saturday, his fifth start since joining Webb.
The six-year-old is chasing a third straight Caulfield victory after graduating to black-type company with an all-the-way win in the Heatherlie Stakes on August 27.
He joined Webb in June after being trained in Sydney by Peter and Paul Snowden having originally starting his career with David Hayes.
“He’s been a good surprise,” Webb said.
“You don’t get hold of a horse like that from the Snowdens and think you’re going to go bang, bang, bang.
“You do everything that you can to hope they do but he’s been a surprise, a good surprise.”
Victory in Saturday’s Naturalism ensures automatic entry into the Caulfield Cup, however Great Esteem is not among nominations for next month’s $3 million race.
Webb joked that some pundits would have put him in an asylum had he nominated Great Esteem for the Caulfield Cup.
Saturday’s attempt will be Great Esteem’s second at 2000m with his first as a three-year-old when prepared by Hayes.
He finished last in The Vase at Moonee Valley in October 2013 and was immediately spelled before joining the Snowdens.
But Webb doesn’t expect the distance to pose any problems.
“Looking at his run the other day and his sectionals he was really strong through the line,” Webb said.
“He gives me every indication he’ll be good at it.”
Webb is also keeping the option of the Listed Penang Trophy at Morphettville open.
He said he would accept with Great Esteem in both races and while preferring to stay home at Caulfield said the Adelaide race was a good back-up.
“At this stage I’ll accept for both and happily just look at it,” Webb said.
“It looks like being a fairly strong Naturalism so he’d have to draw pretty well and have it all his way to be running in it.
“He’ll want to lift again to win this race, but he’s rock hard fit, he looks great, he’s thriving, so I can’t fault him.”