Classy mare Elite Belle's Perth Cup prospects hinge on her performance in the $250,000 LD Total CB Cox Stakes (2100m) at Ascot on Saturday.
Breeder-owner Bob Peters will wait until after the Cox Stakes to decide whether Elite Belle joins stablemate Moonlight Bay in the $500,000 Golden River Developments Perth Cup (2400m) on January 1.
Elite Belle, a brilliant winner of last month's Carbine Club Of WA Stakes (1400m), was beaten only two lengths when sixth behind Ihtsahymn in the Group 1 Tabtouch Kingston Town Classic (1800m) last Saturday week.
The five-year-old was restricted to shorter races before the Kingston Town to capitalise on her sharp turn of foot and ability to race well fresh.
She has performed well over longer distances in the past, including a third to Pop Culture in last year's WA Oaks (2400m).
Peters' No.1 jockey, William Pike, will ride Elite Belle in the Cox Stakes.
Pike will miss the Perth Cup after he was suspended for careless riding on Saturday.
"We'll see how she goes handling the distance," Peters said. "She got over it when she was young but that doesn't mean they get it when they're older.
"The Cox Stakes is the best stepping stone to the cup and if her and Moonlight Bay did go reasonable, they'll be suited dropping back to the handicap."
Elite Belle ($16) yesterday drew barrier five and Moonlight Bay ($51), to be ridden by apprentice Chris Parnham, seven.
Moonlight Bay was set to head to NSW to start broodmare duties this year, but Peters decided at the last minute to give her another racing preparation.
The six-year-old vindicated the move, scoring an upset win in the Ascot Gold Cup (1800m) last month.
Luckygray, the TAB's $3.60 favourite for the Cox Stakes, drew barrier four. Ihtsahymn, the $4.50 second elect, will start from gate two.
Mr Moet ($4.75) drew well in barrier three. Top jockey Paul Harvey is booked to ride Black Tycoon.
·Narrogin's meeting scheduled for Saturday has been cancelled after the track failed a stewards' inspection yesterday.