Balmaceda, a gelding that his Gosford trainer Tony Newing almost sacked from the stable last year, chases his third win from his four starts this preparation when he makes the long trip to Lismore on Monday.
A three-year-old son of Al Maher, Balmaceda tackles Monday's Winning Post Function Centre Benchmark 60 Handicap over 2100m and Newing expects him to relish the step up in distance.
Balmaceda has come a long way since his poor debut effort at Taree last August when he finished last in a field of seven in a 1250m Maiden, a performance that did not impress his trainer one bit.
"I actually wanted to sack him - I didn't think he was any good at all," said Newing.
"But one of the owners, who knows the Al Maher breed better than I do, was keen to keep going with him and pointed out that the Al Mahers are much better as three-year-olds.
"We had the vet go over him and there was nothing wrong with him. But the vet did say the horse had a lot of maturing to do, so we spelled him after that first run at Taree."
Balmaceda returned to work this year and showed Newing enough to suggest he could win first-up over 1600m and he found the right race for him at Dubbo on May 6. Starting at $61, Balmaceda got the job done and then won again second-up in a Benchmark 62 at Gosford on May 26, again over the 1600m.
"He certainly had improved when he came back into work and I thought he could win first-up over the 1600m," said Newing. "There was no point running him first-up over 1200m - he just doesn't have a turn of foot.
"It was a nice result at Dubbo - we certainly got something out of the win at those odds. Then we ran him here at Gosford and he got the job done again."
Newing then took him to Sydney last Saturday for a 3YO Benchmark 72 over 2000m at Randwick but things didn't work out as hoped and the gelding finished 11th behind Jolly Honour on a heavy 9.
"The plan was for him to roll forward last week but that didn't happen and he just never got into the race," said Newing. "He'll definitely be going forward in Monday's race."
The heavy 9 conditions and some interference at the 1400m in that race probably didn't help his chances either. Newing said the Lismore race over the 2100m looks an ideal target for Balmaceda.
"He's looking for the 2100m. I think he'll eventually run out a strong mile and a half (2400m)," said Newing. "And he's eligible for the BOBS bonus, hence the long trip (about 660km) to Lismore for Monday's race.
"All being well, after Monday's race he'll have another run here at Gosford and then we'll spell him again. He's a massive horse - almost 17 hands - and he's still got some maturing to do."
Balmaceda's recent wins have been part of a nice run for the Newing stable in the past month: "We've had five winners in the last month, a pleasing effort as we only have 16 horses in work at the moment," he said.
Balmaceda's main rivals in Monday's race include the in-form Ballina four-year-old Winkler, and the Gold Coast-trained pair The Pinkerton and Lyrids.