Dubbo trainer Peter Nestor is confident Cool Ice is on target for a repeat performance in this Saturday's Parkes Services Club Australia Day Hcp (1400m) at Parkes.
Cool Ice won last year's Australia Day Hcp with 55kg and will carry the same weight on Saturday after apprentice Kylee Kirkwood's 1.5kg claim.
The gelding won last year's race for senior rider Grey Ryan, coming off several unplaced efforts. Nestor believes Cool Ice goes into Saturday's race in better form this time.
Cool Ice resumed in a tough assignment when he finished down the track over 1000m behind Our Renaissance in the $50,000 Skellatar Showcase Sprint at Muswellbrook on 25 November.
He then ran a good second to the Paul Perry-trained Petrossian in the Christmas Cup (1300m) at Scone on 16 December then dropped back to 1200m last start when 6th of nine behind Zarhron in the Cowra Cup on 8 January.
"His run second-up at Scone was good - he just ran into one a bit too good on the day and that horse (Petrossian) has since run well in Sydney (a second at Canterbury)," Nestor said.
"Cool Ice dropped back to 1200m last time at Cowra and they just ran him off his legs over that trip.
"He's looking for the 1400m now and I'm sure he'll run another good race again at Parkes."
Saturday's Australia Day Hcp has attracted a field of seven, headed by the Brett Thompson-trained Slate On Edge who was allotted topweight of 65.5kg.
A winner of 10 races including victories at Flemington, Moonee Valley and Doomben Slate On Edge has won $330,000 prizemoney during his 40-start career.
"Slate On Edge is obviously the best horse in the field on his best form," Nestor said. "But he's weighted right up to his best in Saturday's race."
Gulgong-based trainer Brett Thompson liked Slate On Edge's first-up effort when eighth in the Cowra Cup on 8 January but doubts he's a winning chance second-up into his preparation and burdened with 65.5kg.
"I thought it was a good run at Cowra under the circumstances as he got checked at the 800m and it's hard to recover when they're carrying the big weights," he said. "But it's usually his fourth or fifth run into a prep before he's at his best. I'm just hoping he runs a nice race."
Former English rider James Rogers will partner Slate On Edge on Saturday.
"Slate On Edge is not really an apprentice's horse so I've gone with a senior rider in James who has just got his licence over here and rode a winner for me at Gilgrandra the other week," Thompson said.
The seven-race Australia Day Cup meeting is one of four Parkes meetings during the season and the club's only Saturday TAB meeting.
It is also the first meeting at Parkes since a hurricane ripped through the town in October, causing major damage to the racecourse. The main casualty was the club's grandstand, built in 1928.
"The hurricane caused about a million dollars worth of damage and we're in the process of rebuilding the stand," Parkes Jockey Club Secretary Gordon Pritchard said.
"But we have a large covered betting ring and we're looking forward to a great Australia Day meeting on Saturday. The fields look really strong."
The Parkes track is currently rated a good 3 and the rail will be in its true position.