Inverell trainer Shane Edmonds thinks his in-form veteran sprinter Free Billy can repeat his impressive last-start performance provided he strikes a firm track in Wednesday's Jacaranda Cup (1100m) at Grafton.
The 10-year-old galloper returns to Grafton on Wednesday after producing one of the best performances of his long career at that track on October 20 when he went out a $26 chance but powered home from back in the field to beat the $2.90 favourite Jule's Spirit in the Jacaranda Cup Prelude (1100m).
That win - at his first appearance at Grafton - was the 18th win of his career at his 88th start. The Bel Esprit gelding has also finished in the placings 19 times and collected just over $246,000 in prizemoney. He has won on nine different tracks around NSW and Qld, including six at Goondiwindi.
Free Billy, who has had six different trainers throughout his career, won his first race back in January 2015 and is currently racing as well as ever. He has been with Edmonds since late last year, winning two races as well as finishing second in last January's Inverell Cup (1400m).
"His main goal coming up is to have another crack at the Inverell Cup on January 1," said Edmonds. "He's been a fantastic horse for his Moree owners, former jockey Jimmy Bryans and his family.
"To win 18 races anywhere is an amazing effort and I don't think he's finished yet. And I honestly think a horse like him - a true country galloper who has had long career in NSW - deserved a spot in The Kosciuszko.
"It took a while to figure him out when he first came to me last year. You go in a bit blindfolded when you get an older horse like him who's been with other trainers.
"I school him over the jumps a fair bit and give him a lot of swimming and that keeps him very happy. He has been racing really well and I think his last win at Grafton was one of his best ever performances.
"He's not really an 1100m horse, so I've kept him very fresh to tackle that trip again on Wednesday. He meets a similar field that he beat in the Prelude and although he'll go up 3.5kg this time, I'm sure he'll be very competitive again.
"But he does need a firm track - the firmer the better - to do his best and I do expect the Grafton track will be back in the good range by Wednesday."
The Grafton track was rated a soft 6 on Monday morning but fine weather is forecast for the next 48 hours. Free Billy will carry 57kg on Wednesday after apprentice Kyle Wilson-Taylor's 2kg allowance.
Everson thinks his other runner on Wednesday, stable newcomer Echo Lad - can improve second-up when he tackles the Benchmark 66 Hcp (1410m), but, unlike Free Billy, he would need a soft surface to show his best.
Formerly with Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott, Echo Lad had his first run for Edmonds when a 5.4 length six to Campari Soda in a Class 3 over 1215m at Grafton on September 29.
"He will definitely improve on that run, but he's the opposite of Free Billy - he would need a soft track," said Edmonds.
One of Free Billy's main rivals in the Jacaranda Cup is another in-form 10-year-old Kievann, trained in Brisbane by Lauren Abbott. A winner at Grafton back in March in his only previous start at the track, Kievann was a Gold Coast winner over 1300m two runs back on September 12 before his latest second to Carry On Ringo over 1300m at Ballina on October 4.
Kievann, a winner of 13 races, will be just shy of earning $500,000 in career prizemoney, if he can land Wednesday's race. Irish imports Yulong Knight and Yulong Wall would provide an unusual double if they are both able to win at Grafton on Wednesday.
Yulong Knight, trained by Graham Payne at Coffs Harbour, lines up against Free Billy in the Jacaranda Cup. Yulong Wall, trained by Damien Lane at Wyong, tackles the Class 1 & Maiden Plate (2220m).
Both horses were imported from Ireland in 2018, were both included in the same package of 26 horses purchased by Yulong Investments, and both were initially sent to be trained by the David & Ben Hayes-Tom Dabernig stable.
But they did not progress in Australia as hoped and only had moderate success in Victoria before both were sold earlier this year. Yulong Wall, a son of Galileo, sold for $18,000 at an Inglis online sale in May. Yulong Knight, by Invincible Spirit, sold for $25,000 through the same online sale in April.
Yulong Knight has won one of his six starts for Payne, appreciating the soft conditions when he impressively won the $35,000 Blinkan Missit (800m) at Coffs Harbour four starts back on August 6. He is winless in 12 starts on good tracks but has won three of five on soft ground.
Yulong Wall looks ready to win at his third run this time in, stepping up to the 2220m on Wednesday.