In a campaign that has stamped him as one of the country’s premier middle-distance horses, Mugatoo will look to sign off with a Group One victory on the final day of the Flemington carnival.
The Australian Bloodstock galloper momentarily looked a chance in the Cox Plate when he loomed on the corner before Sir Dragonet burst through the pack.
He finished fourth and trainer Kris Lees says it might have been a different result had Mugatoo enjoyed a more economical run.
“He’d have been right in the finish I think,” Lees said.
“As much as I could see he was still in the race I was expecting him to blow out late with the run he’d had, but he was very brave in defeat.”
The Cox Plate has overwhelmingly been the right form guide for the Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) in recent years.
Seven of the past 10 winners, including Magic Wand 12 months ago, contested the weight-for-age championship en route.
Perth mare Arcadia Queen is the only other Mackinnon runner coming off a Cox Plate performance having finished just behind Mugatoo in fifth.
The pair are well found in early markets with Arcadia Queen a $3.10 favourite and Mugatoo on the third line of betting at $5.
Only last year’s runner-up Melody Belle splits the duo as a $4.60 chance with the remaining runners at double-figure odds.
Lees says Saturday’s 2000m race has always been on the table for Mugatoo this spring and the horse has given him no reason not to run.
“It was always an option providing he ran well in the Cox Plate and pulled up well and he’s done both of them,” Lees said.
“Every indicator you look for would suggest he will hold his form.
“You want to see he’s maintained his weight, has no soreness or any attitude change to suggest he’s a bit sick of things, and we haven’t seen any of that.”
Lees has carefully managed Mugatoo’s preparation, which kicked off with a midwinter victory in July before successive wins in handicap races.
He was edged out by Mirage Dancer in the Metropolitan before passing his first weight-for-age test in the Cox Plate with flying colours.
Lees will also have former European Almania making his debut in the opening race at Flemington, a downgrade from his last-start fourth to champion Enable in England.