Trotter My High Expectations is on track for another tilt at the Great Southern Star, connections hoping he can go two better than when he ran third in the inaugural running of the feature race last year.
Thetrained-and-driven seven-year-old, who was bred in the US, took out last Saturday night's Group 2 Aldebaran Park Maori Mile at Bendigo, holding off heavily-backed runner-up Kyvalley Blur despite doing the bulk of work in the run.
Aiken was understandably thrilled with the performance, My High Expectations forced to punch the breeze for most of the journey with Kyvalley Blur enjoying the perfect slipstream on his back.
"He deserved it," the Avenel horseman said of his trotter's 24th career win.
"I'm really happy that he's been able to carry on from last season.
"When I had Kyvalley behind me in the run I got a bit worried.
"It was probably always going to end up that way, but I was able to duck down the pegs pretty quickly when I got past Junior's ('s) horse at the home turn (Im Ready Set), so that helped."
My High Expectations had a neck margin on the line, with Kyvalley Blur finishing hard for second, the pair putting a 12.2m gap on the rest of the field headed by third-placed Empire.
The winner stopped the clock in 2:00.9, with a mile-rate of 1:57.9.
Aiken said the March 22 Great Southern Star Final remained the main aim, suggesting the week-to-week lead-up races to the big dance at Melton's Tabcorp Park would suit his charge.
"Everything rolls along one week to another with the lead-up runs, but he's showed that's no problem," he said.
"We'll definitely go to Ballarat (after contesting the Group 3, $20,000 George Gath at Shepparton on Saturday night) for the Australasian Trotting Championship heats and we'll see how he gets through that. And of course there's the big Glenferrie Farm Challenge up in Sydney as well.
"That's the race he got a late invitation to last year and he ran a really good race (to finish fifth).
Aiken's other Maori Mile runner, Cold Sister, finished fifth after being caught wide from outside the front row at the start and having to ease back to last before copping a check from the galloping Aleppo Midas at the home corner.
"Nathan (Jack) was really happy with her run. He said if she didn't get checked at the turn she probably runs third," he said.
"It was a real shame she drew wide because those short-course races are her go."
By Cody Winnell (Courtesy of Harness Racing Victoria)