The only man to complete Wagga's Prelude-Cup double has endorsed Gwenda Markwell's Agent Bauer as a galloper capable of stepping out of Macknuckle's shadow.
Brendan Ward achieved the rare feat aboard Bernie Howlett's two-time Canberra Cup winner in 2009, the only time it has been achieved since the introduction of the Wagga Cup Prelude.
Ward partnered Agent Bauer to victory in the Murrumbidgee Cup, formerly known as the Wagga Cup Prelude, less than a fortnight ago in his first association with the five-year-old.
Ward likened Agent Bauer's racing pattern to that of Macknuckle and said despite the awkward alley (16), he was confident he could follow the same formula as three years ago in tomorrow's $140,000 Wagga Cup (2000m).
"I did it on MacKnuckle so it can be done, for sure - especially when you race up on the speed over 10 furlongs," the Canberra-based hoop said.
"The horse can either lead or sit on the speed and I've got no option but to go forward from that gate, anyway. It's no good going back when it's an on-pace runner."
But Ward stopped short of comparing emerging stayer Agent Bauer with the classy Macknuckle.
"Bernie's was a good old horse winning two Canberra Cups, a Wagga Cup and I think he came second in a Goulburn Cup, so he was probably just a class above [Agent Bauer]," he said.
Markwell will also saddle up Group 1 placegetter Lodge The Deeds in the Listed race. Melbourne Cup-winning hoop Blake Shinn has been secured for the ride.
But bookmakers have rated Agent Bauer her top hope in the event with TAB Sportsbet listing the six-race winner at $13 ahead of stablemate Lodge The Deeds ($21).
Agent Bauer's transformation has been pronounced since entering the Markwell stable in mid-2010. In his last start before heading to Kembla Grange he was beaten more than 26 lengths in a lowly maiden at Wellington.
"As a last resort, because I love that horse, I decided to give it to Gwenda for one last shot," owner Will Watkins said. "I promised my wife if he couldn't run we would get rid of them all. She just turned him around and he's a different horse."
South Coast horseman Bede Murray confirmed World Wide, pipped at the post by Voice Commander in last year's Wagga Cup, was as close to peak fitness as possible for a return to the Riverina.
"I was very keen on his chances last year," Murray said. "He's been set for this race and I think he's as good as I can have him at this stage.
"We're just going to let him come out and relax and hopefully he'll be able to slot in somewhere and get a nice run [from barrier 17]," the trainer added.