De Little Engine claimed a third-straight metropolitan grade victory after proving too good in Saturday’s $80,000 Bitalli Handicap (2540m) at Flemington.

Trainer Danny O’Brien said the four-year-old would now be given his chance to step up in class in the Listed Bagot Handicap (2800m) at Flemington on New Year’s Day.

“It’s always been his target and we’ve kept a little bit in the tank so today should have him spot on for the Bagot,” O’Brien said.

“Winning form is good form and the 2800 should be ideal for him, it’s a step up in class but hopefully he can give it a shake.

“He looked like he was going to be challenged at the furlong but he really stayed on well and that’s been a feature of his past three wins, he seems to get stronger the further the race gets.”

Settling just behind the speed, De Little Engine ($2.90F) burst through a gap at the top of the straight before holding off the late challenge of Rodway ($6.50) to win by a half-length, with Great Lane ($12) and Martinvast ($12) dead-heating for third.

O’Brien said De Little Engine had to win the Bagot before he would consider comparing the horse to the likes of Gallopin and Vigor, who also strung together victories over the summer months before graduating to Spring Racing Carnival success.

“The test now will be the Bagot, to be fair he’s won a (benchmark) 70, a 78 and an 84 so it’s hard to get too far ahead of ourselves,” he said.

“If he has a soft win in that sort of grade then you might think he could make a progression like Gallopin and Vigor did out of these summer races.”

Jockey James Winks said the son of Encosta De Lago had improved considerably since he rode him at in the Listed Galilee Series Final (2400m) at Caulfield in April. (Racing Victoria)