BY TOM BARBER - Daily Liberal 14 August 2023

Even though the Melbourne Cup began in 1861, it was not until 1962 that Fashions on the Field became a part of the annual calendar event.

Dubbo's biggest race now has one confirmed entrant after Clint Lundholm's Smooth Esprit qualified for the Gold Cup.

A TAB Highway Handicap winner and Country Championships runner, Smooth Esprit ($3) stormed home late to win the Dubbo City and Gilgandra Toyota Dubbo Gold Cup Prelude (1418m).

Sunday's win now means the gelding automatically scores a spot in the feature race on September 10 at the Dubbo Turf Club.

Having not raced since June this year, Smooth Esprit returned in fine form and impressed his trainer.

"He was first up and had six weeks between runs which was my only concern with him, I knew we had the right horse," he said.

"I was just a bit worried he might have been under done racing against such a good field but he got to the outside and Benny Looker does a good job on him."

Smooth Esprit started the race off very slow, with Boom Boom Basil ($3.60) leading out of the barriers and in the early going.

But Lundholm confessed his gelding was always going to be doing his work late.

"That's just his race pattern, he begins slow and when they really slacked the speed to give Boom Boom Basil a cheap lead I was getting quite concerned," he said.

"The horse probably pulled himself into the race too soon and it flushed him out, he was the best horse on the day and got away with it.

"Now he slips into the Dubbo Cup and will have no weight on him. It's going to be a hard race but he will have no weight and is at his home track where he races so well."

Smooth Esprit continued to work around the outside of the field before kicking away down the home straight, opting to stick to the outside.

The gelding hit the line strongly ahead of Smoke Bomb ($18) and Boom Boom Basil.

Now with a certain starter in the Gold Cup, Lundholm confessed there are a few more runners he'd like to get in the big race.

"We are hoping to have three in it, we are looking to have Notabadidea who is high in the benchmark," he said.

"He is heading to the Narromine Cup and we have another one, Macchina Volante.

"He had his first start for the stable at Moree the other day, ran fourth and finished really strong.

"He is really high in the benchmark, this one (Smooth Esprit) looked like missing out due to his benchmark which is why we aimed for this one."

Brett Robb's Rylan's Pick booked a spot in the Vincent Gordon Flying Handicap after winning the prelude event on Sunday.

The gelding beat the highly-rated Two Ya Got to score the win.