Armidale trainer Lea Selby hopes apprentice Chelsea Ings's faith in rejuvenated former Listed race winner Evangelist will be rewarded when the eight-year-old lines up at Grafton on Thursday.
Evangelist ended a two-year losing stretch by winning two of his past five starts and gets his chance to maintain his strong summer form in Thursday's Blues Brews & BBQ's March 11 Open Hcp (1610m).
The well-travelled Evangelist began his racing career in England back in 2012 - winning three races in the UK - before joining the Tony McEvoy stable in Australia in 2014. His best Australian performances for McEvoy where his win in the 2015 Listed Sale Cup and a 'bob-of-the-head' second to Observational in the Listed Golden Mile at Bendigo in March the same year.
Evangelist was purchased by Selby last winter and finally struck winning form at his 13th start for her when he scored at Gosford on December 15 for apprentice Sophia Thatcher. The gelding scored again three starts later when Ings took over. Ings followed Selby's instructions perfectly to land the Summer Stayers Hcp (1900m) at Kempsey on January 9. She settled Evangelist back in the field at Kempsey before making a forward move at the 1000m and taking the lead at the 800m. Evangelist kicked strongly in the straight to comfortably hold off Push The Sky Away (a rival again on Thursday) by two lengths.
"Those were the riding tactics we came up for the Kempsey track and Chelsea rode him perfectly," said Selby.
"But I won't be giving Chelsea any set instructions in Thursday's race on the bigger Grafton track. She knows him so well and will know what to do in the run.
"Chelsea's now ridden him three times and done a great job each time. She loves this horse and has a lot of faith in him. She's coming up all the way from Sydney on Thursday just for this one ride at the Grafton meeting."
Selby is rapt to see Evangelist finally back in winning form and admits it took a while for her to work him out. The gelding finished unplaced in his first six starts for Selby last year before showing the first glimpse of a return to form on October 7 when third in the Manilla Cup at Gunnedah.
"It took a while with him - he's got a few tricks to him," she said. "He doesn't like to work on the track for one thing, so I don't do much with him and give him plenty of swimming.
"He's absolutely beside himself this morning, the best he's been since I've had him. He faces a tougher field at Grafton - Giltra for one is a pretty good galloper - but my horse couldn't be any better and the 1610m is the ideal trip for him."
Evangelist faces a handy field in Thursday's race, including the Port Macquarie galloper Glitra, Gold Coast mare Queen Of Wands and last-start winners Voltaire Lumiere and Image Of Love.
Selby, who only has three horses in work at the moment, will also have Kilmarnock lining up in the Sky Racing Benchmark 60 Hcp (2210m) on Thursday.
"He always runs well at Grafton and will appreciate the step up to 2210m on Thursday," she said.
Selby said Kilmarnock's lastest unplaced run at Armidale as the $4.00 favourite on January 29 should be forgiven as the gelding was ridden 'upside down' in a forward position, contrary to her instructions.
"He'll be ridden a lot quieter this time," she said.
Apprentice Leah Kilner will claim 3kg on Kilmarnock who has two wins and a second from his three starts at Grafton.
Thursday's Grafton meeting is a now a 10-race program after a Benchmark 55 Hcp over 1100m was added following Monday's washed out Ballina meeting.