Startled made his return to the track on Tuesday morning in a 1200m trial at the Sunshine Coast.
While he may not be a household name for many racing followers, the David Vandyke-trained gelding was well on his way before injury struck at the end of 2019.
The son of Shocking is undefeated in two career starts, having won at Eagle Farm on debut by two lengths before coasting home to win a 1400m Class 1 at the Sunshine Coast by 7.8 lengths on December 8, 2019.
At the time, his star stablemate Alligator Blood was gearing up for his Australian Guineas assault in Victoria, with some punters suggesting that Startled would not have been out of place in some nice staying races over the Melbourne autumn and into the spring.
The five-year-old gelding returned to the track on Tuesday morning in a Class 2 1200m trial, where Ryan Maloney gave him a soft time of it in front before allowing horses to pass him in the final stages, finishing third in the field of four and beaten only by half a length.
— Nick Lloyd (@Nick_Lloyd15) July 27, 2021
While there is more work to be done, Startled’s trainer had set him some big targets when he was racing some 85 weeks ago.
“I always wanted to get a yearling and try and prepare it to get to a Melbourne Cup,” Vandyke said after his second win in 2019.
“I know that’s a dream, but it’s a healthy dream.”
Both of the gelding’s wins had been over shorter sprint trips, with Vandyke saying that those victories were “just raw ability”.
Startled is currently a $101 chance in the betting for the Melbourne Cup, which is likely to lack international depth in 2021.