Count De Rupee will carry the weight of a region on Saturday, but trainer Luke Price might be the last person at Kembla Grange to cheer if he hits the front in the $1 million The Gong.
Price waited until the 150m mark to believe the Golden Eagle might be in his keeping when jockey Brock Ryan surged, only to be nailed in three final strides by I'm Thunderstruck in the $7.5 million race last month.
The near-miss has only fuelled the fire for Price to win the Illawarra's biggest race on his home track with his best horse.
"I had a very clear view," Price said. "(Father and co-trainer) Rob was in front of me and he went very early, he got up cheering at the 350m and I sort of waited until the 150m, I sort of wished I'd waited another 100 yards to tell you the truth.
"But Brock gave him a peach of a ride, he does have the tendency to switch off in front, whether or not that was the case in the Golden Eagle, he got beat by an extremely talented horse.
"He came through extremely well and you know, going to the mile on our home track, he's ticking a lot of boxes."
Count De Rupee is around the $3 mark as favourite for Saturday's 1600m feature.
If one of the richest races in the world was just out of his grasp, then Price maintains confidence that Kembla Grange is Count De Rupee's turf and he'll show you why he owns it, against some talented rivals like Chris Waller's Aramayo, Peter and Paul Snowden's I Am Superman and Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young's Rich Hips.
The Mark Newnham-trained Quackerjack, who ran second in the inaugural The Gong is back for another shot. But Count De Rupee has had four starts at Kembla Grange for three wins and a second, only narrowly beaten in his career debut over 1000m.
"If it was 1100m he wins and wins easily," Price said.
"So going to a mile here, it's only his 15th run in a race, in a million dollar race after just getting beat in a $7.5 million race, he's lived up to expectations and let's hope the Illawarra gets behind him and cheers him on Saturday."
It was almost 12 months to the day when Price knew he had a seriously talented horse on his hands, when he blew them away in a Class 1 for colts, geldings and entires over 1200m.
Recently, he was forced to recover after a mid-race incident in the Silver Eagle, showing his toughness.
"You saw a proper horse in the Silver Eagle where he got turned sideways (when Triple Ace broke down) and really pulled himself off the canvas to put himself in the Golden Eagle," Price said.
Price has absolutely no fears about extending Count De Rupee out to the mile for the first time, after his daring Golden Eagle run over 1500m at Rosehill.
Wednesday's all-important barrier draw will determine the tactics about where he lands in running, with the expectation of being in the first half-dozen horses from a good gate, or being ridden more conservatively from an awkward position.
"He just doesn't want to hit the front too early," Price said. "The barrier is going to determine the way he gets ridden. He drew a lovely gate in the Golden Eagle, so if we draw a bad gate in The Gong, Brock is going to have to have his thinking cap on and we'll do that together in the lead-up to it. He's a classy horse in a race where I think he deserves to be favourite."