Tuncurry trainer Terry Evans will decide on race morning whether his iron horse Arise Augustus resumes at Grafton on Tuesday.
Evans has two acceptors at Tuesday's meeting - Arise Augustus in the Youthful Jack March Hare Hcp (1006m) and former Victorian galloper Twelfth Raj in the Big Money Benchmark 55 Hcp (1410m). Evans said Twelve Raj would be a definite runner regardless of the conditions but the track rating on Tuesday morning would decide whether Arise Augustus takes his place.
The Grafton track on Sunday was rated a soft 6 and Evans is not keen to run the six-year-old first-up on a wet track.
"He handles soft ground okay, but he's still got a bit of beef on him and I don't want to knock him around first-up on wet ground," said Evans. "I'll wait and see what happens with the weather and the track rating before making a decision on a start on Tuesday morning."
If the track does happen to be upgraded to Evans's satisfaction and Arise Augustus runs, the trainer is confident he'll race well: "If the track is upgraded and he runs, I think he'll go close," said Evans.
A winner of eight of his 48 starts and placed another 14 times, Arise Augustus is resuming since finishing fourth to subsequent Group Three winner Zestful in a Benchmark 75 Hcp (1200m) at Canterbury on December 9. He began his last campaign in September with a close first-up second to Aegean Sea over 1000m at Warwick Farm.
If Arise Augustus does take his place on Tuesday, 3kg-claiming apprentice Chelsea Ings will be chasing a perfect record on the gelding. Her one previous ride on the sprinter was on March 26 last year when they combined for a win at Coffs Harbour.
Tuesday's race attracted nine acceptors, including proven wet-trackers like Fabry, Hydrazine and Duty Dude, as well as track specialist Charlee Bear, whose recent efforts have been below par but she is unbeaten in three starts at Grafton.
Evans expects his other runner, Twelfth Raj, to appreciate the step up to 1410m in Tuesday's Benchmark 55 Hcp at his fourth run this campaign. Formerly trained at Ballarat by Archie Alexander, Twelfth Raj won first-up for Evans over 1000m at Tuncurry on January 14 and has since run third over 1100m at Port Macquarie on February 3 and fourth over 1200m at Tuncurry on February 18.
"He's been racing pretty well over the shorter trips since I got him," said Evans. "They tried him up to 2200m in Victoria and he'll definitely appreciate the step up to 1400m now. There look to be a few chances in Tuesday's race but he should race well."
Scott Thurlow will partner Twelfth Raj. The rail for Tuesday's seven-race program will be out 3m from the 1200m-winning post and true for the remainder of the track.