Talk about Classic Miles and Derbies is going to increasingly take up more space in the coming weeks as eyes turn to the four-year-old features.
Former New Zealander McQueen fell short of that level as a three-year-old and will likely fall short here too, but his third run for Derek Cruz was enough of an improvement on Saturday to think he is close to paying his bills in lesser assignments.
Under the same name, McQueen won his second and third starts in New Zealand over 1,600m and 1,500m, before he was stepped up in distance and finished fourth in the Waikato Guineas over 2,000m and fifth in the Avondale Guineas (2,100m) both behind eventual Caulfield Cup winner Mongolian Khan, before he was beaten a long way in the 2,400m NZ Derby by that same horse.
But his Guineas efforts were sound enough for a relatively unseasoned horse, with some expectation that he could perform at least as well as he matured here.
He was poor on debut on October, then sent forward to lead second-up and that effort wasn’t as bad as it appeared on paper behind Secret Weapon.
On Saturday, he dropped to Class Three for the first time, was ridden quietly from a wide draw and found the rail fairly early for Richard Fourie. He kept on the rail until after straightening, angled out and found the line fourth-best in the race despite his top weight. Those who finished better – Happy Place, Kiram and Happy Agility – carried between 13 and 18 pounds less and are right at their peak. McQueen may just be nearing his peak and has been helped along by dropping another two points in the rehandicap on Monday.
The other horse from the same race who should be not far off improving his bottom line is fourth-placed Jolly Gene. First-up since June, he had been given a very good prep for the race by Tony Cruz, including five trials, and did have to do a little work to get across and lead from barrier 11.
His local form reads nine starts without a placing but he was decent once or twice over 1,800m last term and looks to be on a very manageable rating now.