Trainer Brett Dodson is hoping for a touch of deja vu despite his heavy track concerns when Vacate and Galway line up on their home track at Coffs Harbour on Tuesday.
Dodson will saddle up four runners at Tuesday's seven-race meeting which is being run on a Heavy 8 surface. "Monday was quite a good drying day so the track shouldn't be that bad," said Dodson.
Dodson's runners are Vacate ($2.90 TAB favourite) and A Million Dreams ($5) in the Kevin Bellamy Memorial Class 3 Hcp (1315m), Praeferox ($2.40 fav) in the Jack Simmon Memorial C,G&E Maiden Plate (1315m) and Galway ($8.50) in the Jim Browning Memorial Benchmark 58 Hcp (1615m). His other acceptor, Play School, has been scratched from the last race.
Dodson is hoping history repeats itself as far as Vacate and Galway are concerned: "Both of their most recent wins were here at Coffs at our Cup meeting last August, so it would be great if they could repeat that here again on Tuesday," said Dodson.
Vacate won a Class 3 (1200m) while Galway landed the $50,000 Country Magic Merv Mercer Mile (1615m) at the Coffs Harbour Cup meeting, run on a soft 5. They have not started at Coffs Harbour since that meeting that kicked off the racing season on August 1.
Vacate showed he was on target for another win after his two most recent starts when fourth to Kievann in an Open Hcp (1200m) at Grafton on March 15 and his last-start second to See It Thru in Class 3 Hcp (1206m) at Grafton on March 31.
"He is coming off two good runs at Grafton and looks to be nearing another win, but the 1300m on the heavy track are the obvious queries with him," said Dodson. "He hasn't raced on a heavy track before, and although he easily won a recent trial here at Coffs on a heavy 10, it's different when they have to let down under race conditions."
Vacate has an excellent record at Coffs Harbour with two wins and a narrow defeat from just three runs on his home track, but his three wins have been over 1000m, 1100m and 1200m. His only run beyond 1250m was in last year's Country Championships Qualifier over 1400m at Grafton when he finished down the track behind La Scopa.
"He does love it here on his home track and I guess if he's going to handle the heavy and the step up to 1300m he's more likely to do it here," said Dodson.
Apprentice Kyle Wilson-Taylor takes his 2kg allowance on Galway who still has to carry 61kg in the Benchmark 58 Hcp over the 1615m. Like Vacate, Galway has won two of his three starts at the track. Galway's only previous run on heavy ground was at the Sunshine Coast in May last year when he stepped up sharply in distance to finish 8th in a Class 3 over 1800m.
Galway has been unplaced at his two runs this time in, but he didn't have a lot go his way last time out at Grafton when ninth, beaten just over three lengths, behind Eurogem in a Benchmark 58 over 1410m on March 31.
"The step up to the 'mile' will definitely suit him, but he still faces a bit of a task with the weight on a heavy track," said Dodson.
Wilson-Taylor also claims 2kg on the ex-Gary Portelli-trained A Million Dreams who lines up alongside Vacate in Tuesday's Class 3 at his third run since joining the Dodson stable.
Although he has run a couple of placings on heavy ground, Dodson said he was definitely better on firmer going. A Million Dreams is coming off a last-start second-up fourth, beaten almost four lengths, behind Northern Wilderose on a heavy10 at Coffs Harbour on March 9.
"He will appreciate the 1300m and is dropping in weight on his last two runs, but he definitely prefers firmer tracks," said the trainer.
Northern Knight ($4), trained at Coffs Harbour by Brett Bellamy, carries the topweight of 60.5kg in the Class 3. Bellamy would love to win the race that honours his late father Kevin, but Northern Knight would also be much better suited on firmer ground.
Three-year-old Praeferox made an encouraging debut for Dodson at Grafton on March 31, finishing a close second to Lost Light in 1006m Maiden on a soft7, and could go one better in Tuesday's Maiden Plate (1315m): "He went into that race without a trial or a jumpout and has taken a lot of improvement from that run, but, again, the heavy track is the query with him," said Dodson.
One runner at Tuesday's meeting who won't be a risk on heavy conditions is the Coffs Harbour-trained three-year-old Bel Academy ($4) who runs in the Benchmark 58 Hcp (810m). Trained by Brad Munro, Bel Academy was a big winner in heavy conditions at Coffs Harbour two runs back in early March.