October conjures up the very best of memories for Northern Rivers trainer John Shelton so it wouldn't surprise if he could play a strong hand in the latter part of Tuesday's eight-race program on his home track at Grafton.
Shelton enjoyed a career highlight on 13 October 2018 when his sprinter Belflyer took out the $1.3m The Kosciuszko at Randwick.
Sent out at huge odds of $71 despite a narrow defeat in that year's Ramornie Handicap, Belflyer powered home from well back in the field to down Suncraze and Awesome Pluck.
Future Group 2 winners Victorem and The Monstar, as well as future dual Listed winner Snitz, all finished out of the money in the race.
The memories came flooding back on Saturday when Shelton watched the exciting Scone mare It's Me land this year's Kosciuszko.
"That was a great day in 2018 and we had quite a celebration," said Shelton. "Belflyer is happily retired and enjoying the sunshine on a property up near Rockhampton.
"I'd love to find another one to have another crack at The Kosciuszko in the future."
Shelton will have six runners at Tuesday's Grafton meeting - Arlington Valley in the Benchmark 58 Hcp (2200m), the first-starters Salation and Tara Jasmine lining up together in the Maiden Hcp (1100m), Jule's Spirit in the Jacaranda Cup Prelude (1100m) and Queenofthecastle and Super Slick tackling the final event, the F&M Class 1 Hcp (1100m).
Jule's Spirit has continued to race consistently over a long period. Since resuming in March he has won four races from his 11 starts and is rarely far away in defeat.
He was a Ballina winner two runs back on September 10 when he downed Mecum and Patriot on a heavy 10 in a Benchmark 74 over 1000m. At his most recent outing on September 24 he drew an outside gate and battled on well for fifth behind Valiant in the $50,000 Untamed Sprint (1210m) at the Lismore Cup meeting.
"I thought his run at Lismore was very good and he's drawn a much better alley in Tuesday's easier race," said Shelton. "He always seems to run well when he draws a decent gate and this race does look ideal for him.
"After Tuesday's race he'll probably have one more start in the Jacaranda Cup (on November 4) and then go for a well-earned break because he's been up for a long time."
Tuesday's track rating could be of some concern to Shelton with the Grafton track on Monday morning rated a soft 5. Jule's Spirit has won three times on good tracks and is unbeaten in three runs in heavy ground, but has never run a place in six starts on tracks in the soft range.
"That is a strange 'stat' he has. It's not that he's run that badly in the soft conditions, but he just hasn't run his best races," he said.
Shelton expects Queenofthecastle and Super Slick to both run well in the F&M Class 1. Queenofthecastle is second-up after resuming with a fifth behind Autumn Splendour in a Class 1 (1115m) at Grafton on September 29.
Super Slick, a 3yo Super One filly, defied an alarming betting drift on debut at Ballina on October 4 to easily win a Maiden over 1000m. A $17 to $51 drifter in the market, Super Slick led all the way to score by almost two lengths.
Super Slick is raced by Shelton's long-time friends and stable clients Brian and Betty Paine who have raced horses with the trainer for more than 30 years.
"Super Slick was ignored in the betting, but she had shown a lot of promise and we thought she could definitely win on debut," said Shelton.
"Hopefully she can now step up again on Tuesday and go on with it. And Queenofthecastle should also run very well. I thought her first-up effort at Grafton was very good."
First-starters Salation and Tara Jasmine line up in the Maiden Hcp (1100m) after both trialling quite nicely recently. Tara Jasmine has drawn much better on Tuesday and jumps from gate two while Salation has to contend with barrier 11.
Salation, a five-year-old Excelebration mare, ran second to Hallowed Dreams in a Grafton trial over 855m on September 29, while Tara Jasmine ran second to Alternative Facts in a Grafton trial over 820m on September 21.
Shelton has taken over the training of Salation from Grafton trainer Brenden Mackay who has been battling cancer since last year: "Both fillies are going along nicely and could figure in the finish on Tuesday," said the trainer.
Shelton isn't expecting too much from his only other runner Arlington Valley who takes on the likely shortest-priced favourite of the day in Dangerous Dan in the Benchmark 58 over 2200. Arlington Valley has won one of his 15 starts and has been unplaced in his past seven runs.