It may only be the beginning of April but it was as far back as November last year that Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott had White Marlin's path to the 2023 Melbourne Cup laid out.
Undefeated in five starts, including three runs in Australia since arriving from Ireland in early 2022, White Marlin gave his rivals a staying lesson at Flemington when winning the minor staying race on Melbourne Cup Day over 2800-metres.
Since then, the day's feature twelve months later became the focus.
White Marlin is among the nominations for the Group 3 Easter Cup over 2100-metres at Sandown on Saturday enroute to the Listed Andrew Ramsden Stakes (2800m) at Flemington on May 13.
Winning the Andrew Ramsden earns a golden ticket into the Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m).
"We're trying to get him to qualify and the best race to qualify in is the Andrew Ramsden, and this is the first steppingstone towards that," Waterhouse said.
"Ever since Melbourne Cup week it is been the plan."
While the Easter Cup isn't often a race in the periphery for Melbourne Cup aspirants in the modern era, Waterhouse says that the pieces fit towards gaining the ballot free exemption.
"I think it is a perfect track and the right distance to start off in," she added.
The second favourite in all-in markets at $13, the five-year-old gelding is headed at $11 by stablemate Goldman who earned his own ticket into the November 7 feature by winning the Listed Roy Higgins Quality (2600m) last month.
Though enthusiastic over both staying prospects, the 2013 Melbourne Cup-winning trainer would not be drawn to split the pair on ability.
"They're both terribly talented," Waterhouse said.
"Goldman is still unfurnished while White Marlin has already had that preparation so he's more seasoned."