Trainer Steven Phelps expects his in-form pair Kitteau and General Nelson to continue their terrific recent form on their home track at Ballina on Monday, despite both having to carry hefty imposts.
Kitteau, winner of two of his past three starts at Ballina, carries the 63.5kg topweight in the Weddings@The BJC Benchmark 66 Hcp (1600m).
General Nelson, who is absolutely flying this campaign with wins at his previous three starts on his home track, carries 62kg in the TAB Benchmark 66 Hcp (1000m).
Phelps much preferred to stick with a senior rider rather than book an inexperienced claiming apprentice, and Ben Looker rides the pair on Monday. Luke Rolls has had plenty of success on Kitteau and General Nelson recently, but will be riding at Scone on Monday.
"Their weights don't concern me at all," said a confident Phelps. "Both horses can carry weight and both horses are racing really well, particularly here at Ballina. I think they will both be hard to beat on Monday, especially General Nelson, who I think is just about a good thing."
Kitteau, formerly with Sydney trainer John O'Shea, has had just seven starts for Phelps, winning two of his four starts this preparation.
The five-year-old scored first-up at Ballina in a Benchmark 66 Hcp over 1400 on February 4, then had absolutely no luck in the straight when last of eight behind Wallander at Ballina on February 18.
Kitteau bounced back at his next run at Ballina, carrying 62.5kg to win a Class 2 Hcp over 1400m on February 28.
Kitteau was racing so well, Phelps thought he deserved a chance in the $150,000 NRRA Country Championships Qualifier at Grafton on March 17 and the gelding ran well without luck to finish eighth - beaten just over six lengths - behind the winner La Scopa.
"His run in the Country Championships Qualifier was very good as he struck trouble early," said Phelps. "I think he's going to be very hard to beat back in Monday's race."
Although yet to win in four previous runs over 1600m, Kitteau did run well over the trip at Warwick Farm and Hawkesbury when trained by John O'Shea and Phelps said the trip would be no issue on Monday.
General Nelson, a five-year-old son of Monashee Mountain, has really hit his straps this campaign. After winning just two of his first 19 starts, General Nelson has reeled off three wins from his past four starts.
"A few things have clicked with him this prep," said Phelps. "I don't do much with him, keep him fresh and he races best that way. He's really going well, especially here at Ballina, a track that suits him as he can just kick off the turn."
General Nelson's five runs this campaign have netted three Ballina wins, the most recent when he downed Hydrazine and this Saturday's Country Championships finalist Queen Of Kingston in an Open Hcp (1005m) on February 28.
Phelps also has Aqua Jewel running alongside General Nelson in the sprint, but the mudlark would need very heavy conditions to pose any threat.
Phelps also warned punters not to underestimate the chances of stable newcomer Shezaheartbreaker, who resumes in the NRRA Maiden Hcp (1000m).
Formerly trained on the Gold Coast by Kim Craft, Shezaheartbreaker was well beaten at her only two runs at the Gold Coast last December, but Phelps likes what he's seen of the four-year-old mare since she's been in his stable.
"She's been working very well since I've had her and I think she's capable of a big improvement on her only two runs at the Coast," he said.
Leading Gold Coast trainer Toby Edmonds looks to have several strong hopes at Monday's seven-race program - including the I Am Invincible colt Painted Wolf, who makes his debut in the Maiden Hcp (1000m), Fast Dealer in the Class 1 & Maiden Plate (1900m), Union Dues in the Benchmark 66 Hcp (1600m), Munich, who lines up against on General Nelson in the Benchmark 66 Hcp (1000m), and first-starter Ularara who runs in the Maiden Plate (1400m).
Union Dues carries 6.5kg less than Kitteau in the Benchmark 66 and will appreciate the step up to the 1600m at his third run since resuming. Formerly with the powerful Hawkes stable, Union Dues has had just the two starts for Edmonds, the most recent a strong-finishing second over 1400m in a Class 2 at the Gold Coast on March 23.
Munich, formerlly trained by Peter and Paul Snowden, has also had just the two runs for Edmonds.
Fast Dealer looks particularly hard to beat third-up in his 1900m race after his last-start terrific third to Holly's Song over 1600m at the Sunshine Coast on March 24.