Just 12 months ago, Ray Smith’s Little Digger was among the cream of sprinters in NSW, mixing it with the best both on country and city tracks, and narrowly missing a berth in the Ladbrokes Golden Easter Egg final.

When Smith made the trip from Forbes to Dubbo around this time last year, he headed home the trophy and $10,000 in prizemoney when Little Digger (pictured in box 2) stormed home to win the Ladbrokes Dubbo Gold Cup.

On Sunday he’ll be back on the Newell Highway heading to Dubbo, again with Little Digger, looking to go defend the Cup title.

In last Sunday’s heats, Little Digger was last early, and still looked in trouble of not qualifying heading towards the home turn. But his powerful finish saw Little Digger storm into third behind Jimmy Casey, and into the Cup final.

It was Little Digger’s first run over a sprint journey since Smith moved him into the staying ranks in February.

“It was good run in the heat,” Smith said. “We just thought that when the race came up, and the chance to defend his title, we thought we would give him a little bit of freshen up and have a go again.

“And it’s good prizemoney. They’re not running for nothing.

“He’ll need a little bit of luck in running but you never know.”

Little Digger has taken a liking to the staying caper. From nine distance starts he has won twice and being placed six times, finishing fourth in the other outing, the highlight coming when second to Veloce Nero in the Group 1 Association Cup over 720m at Wentworth Park in April.

“We’ll do a bit of both (sprinting and staying) with him,” Smith said. “He can do both well and we’re just trying to look after him and keep his career going for as long as we can and for while ever he is happy.”

Apart from last year’s Cup win, Little Digger has an exceptional record at Dubbo, with five wins and two placings from seven starts. He also qualified for the Million Dollar Chase semis after finishing second to Midnight Starlet in the Dubbo Regional Final last year.

Smith also has Ladbrokes Golden Easter Egg finalist Irinka Lizzy in the Cup final, having finished third behind Jimmy Casey’s kennelmate, Charlie Casey.

Peter Carr’s littermates Jimmy Casey and Charlie Casey, the two heat winners, will both be fancied to win the Cup.

Jimmy Casey clocked 29.53s in his heat, and has come up with the red, but it’s not a draw that suits the normally slow beginner. Charlie Casey, who clocked 29.63s, has drawn the three.

The Cup has attracted a strong line-up with Caitlyn Keeping (5), Tap Out Dusty (2) and Double Up Dee (7) also having legitimate winning prospects.

The race jumps at 7.12pm on Sunday night.