Hawkesbury trainer James Ponsonby might have the early favourite for the 2024 Orange Gold Cup in his stable, as well as a few others, too.
The Ponsonby stable chalked up the trifecta in the Angullong Wines Benchmark 66 Handicap, which was run over the cup distance of 2110 metres on Thursday.
Semper Fortis ($2.35) produced a superb run to record his third career win, and the only real challengers to that victory were also Ponsonby horses.
Grenoble ($7) and Will To Excel ($4.60) - a last start winner at Towac Park - mounted compelling, late runs at the lead, but Semper Fortis proved more than capable of fending off both of his stable mates to win the $27,000 race at Racing Orange's Oriana New Year Celebration meeting at Towac Park.
Ponsonby was at Orange, as were connections of the five-year-old gelding that proved the 2100m distance was no problem.
That trip is one of the longest cup distances anywhere in the Central District Racing Association, and with Ponsonby's chances going one-two-three it's a safe bet to think at least one of them will return for Racing Orange's richest race in April.
Winning hoop Clayton Gallagher said Semper Fortis "did it quite easily" at Orange. The Towac Park track was rated a soft six on Thursday.
The gelding nestled in behind the Michael Lunn trained Yak ($11) for the duration of the first mile. Yak led by as much as seven lengths in that time, but once the field hit the home straight it was all Semper Fortis.
"He was travelling throughout, his last couple of runs he's done the same, but every time a horse put pressure on behind him he pricked his ears and found another gear," Gallagher said.
"He did it quite easily here today."