Trainer John Shelton would love to end the biggest month of his training career with a winner or two on his home track at Grafton on Tuesday, but admits awkward barrier draws have dented his confidence regarding his two leading contenders Lucky Meteor and Caro Cavallo.
Shelton has enjoyed his share of celebrations in the past few weeks since scoring a career highlight when Belflyer landed the $1.3m The Kosciuszko (1200m) at Randwick on October 13.
"We've celebrated a bit but things are quietening down now," quipped Shelton. "It was an amazing result - I never thought Belflyer would ever be winning a million-dollar race at Randwick - the Kosciuszko came a year to the day since he won a Warwick Cup (worth $25,000)."
Shelton hasn't had a runner since The Kosciuszko, but it is back to business as usual at Tuesday's Grafton meeting where he has a handful of starters, headed by his tough sprinter Lucky Meteor in the Jacaranda Prelude (1100m) and the in-form Caro Cavallo, who chases his fourth straight win in the Benchmark 66 Hcp (1400m).
Shelton was disappointed when both horses drew gate 12 in their respective races, especially with Lucky Meteor, who also has to lump 62kg after apprentice Cejay Graham's 1.5kg allowance.
"When they have to carry that sort of weight, you definitely need some favours with a good gate, but that hasn't happened," said Shelton.
"It now makes it that much tougher for him, but he does have a great record over the 1100m at Grafton and hopefully he can get across and either lead or sit just off the leader.
"But obviously he can't afford to have to do too much work with that weight. It'll certainly be a great effort if he can win again at Grafton on Tuesday."
Lucky Meteor has been a grand performer for Shelton and owners Brian and Betty Paine, winning 13 of his 50 starts and just over $240,000 in prizemoney. He has an unblemished record over the 1100m at Grafton, winning four from four at the track and distance.
Two of those wins include the Jacaranda Prelude in 2016 with 60kg and last year's Jacaranda Cup with 60kg. The eight-year-old is likely to chase back-to-back Jacaranda Cup wins at the next Grafton meeting on November 7.
"He's been a great horse to us and there's no thoughts of retirement for him just yet," said Shelton. "After Tuesday, all being well he'll probably run again in the Jacaranda Cup next week - he certainly loves racing here at Grafton."
Shelton also has Cash Spinner resuming in the Jacaranda Prelude but expects the seven-year-old to find the others a big sharp over the 1100m. Shelton has been delighted with the progress of Caro Cavallo this preparation and hopes the six-year-old can overcome his awkward draw in the Benchmark 66.
Caro Cavallo was winless in his first 12 starts, but has put three straight wins together in good style - all at Grafton - in the past two months. He won his Maiden over 1706m on September 1, dropped back to 1420m to win a Class 1 on September 25 then completed the hat-trick with Class 2 win over 1420m on a heavy 8 at his most recent outing on October 12.
"A few things hadn't gone right for him in a few of his races earlier on, but he's been racing really well here at Grafton and I thought he was impressive last start," said Shelton. "The barrier drew isn't ideal, but it's not as big an issue for him as it is with Lucky Meteor as he's (Caro Cavallo's) a 'get back' horse anyway.
"I also have Cool Prince in that race as well. He probably hasn't had a lot of luck lately and I wouldn't be surprised if he ran some sort of race as well."
Murwillumbah sprinter Chloride has to shoulder 62kg when he resumes for new trainer Paul Nipperess in Tuesday's Benchmark 58 Hcp (1200m) but could still be hard to beat if he repeats his last first-up performance back in March.
Chloride, then trained by Liam Munro, strolled home by eight lengths when he resumed in a Benchmark 50 at Lismore on March 17 then won back-to-back races at Grafton on April 20 and May 20.