Shane Tritton promises Mach Beauty will be "spot on" for next month's final after the Inter Dominion heat winner silenced his doubters on a night of high drama.
Less than half-an-hour after 20-year-old trainer-driver Todd McCarthy, with just four horses next to his name, caused a shock with Seel N Print, Mach Beauty ($8.60) undid the second odds-on favourite in the Menangle heats.
Lauren Panella handed up in the middle stages to Luke McCarthy's Victoria Cup hero For A Reason ($1.50fav) before diving back to the pegs in the straight and scoring by a head.
"He's certainly copped a lot and everyone said he can't run the distance and he can't do it at this level, but he's standing up and we'll be there in two weeks to give it a shake," Tritton said, after Mach Beauty beat For A Reason for the second time in seven days.
"He keeps improving the more racing he gets.
"He'll probably get better and he went better this week than what he did last week. In two weeks time, he'll be spot on.
"At least we know we've got the gate speed to lead, so he'll be thereabouts."
Panella's nerveless drive was yet another tick for Generation Next, who have added a dash of youth to harness racing's most anticipated final on March 2.
If For A Reason was forced to work overtime to secure his automatic spot in the $750,000 decider, it was even more so for Miracle Mile winner Beautide.
Whisked to the front in the middle stages of the first NSW heat, trainer-driver James Rattray could only watch helplessly as Seel N Print ($38.80) rocketed down the outside for Todd McCarthy's career highlight.
Beautide ($1.20fav) only just managed to scramble home for second ahead of The Gold Ace ($6.20), who was later granted one of two wildcards into the final.
It could do nothing to take away from the achievement of the younger McCarthy.
"I thought maybe at best if I ran in the first five I would have been really happy with that," Todd said. "Anything other than that was a bonus and I definitely didn't expect that for sure.
"It's such a big and prestigious race ... it's an honour to even be in it. I'm honestly just rapt to be in there."
While Tritton remained bullish about Mach Beauty's potential to muster a little improvement, McCarthy joked: "If he [Seel N Print] draws good and gets a nice sit he might be able to get a soft run if they go solid. He's one of those horses that can surprise you and come from anywhere."
Victoria's iron horse Caribbean Blaster was the other wildcard to complete the 14-horse field after a fourth behind Keayang Cullen and Restrepo at Melton.
Kiwi champion Terror To Love managed to hold on from Smolda in a farcically-run New Zealand qualifier.