Everything is falling into place for bargain buy San Marco to add more to his growing prizemoney earnings when he lines up in Sunday's $35,000 Taree Kia Manning Lightning (1000m) at Taree.
Veteran trainer Peter Ball, based at Gladstone about 135km north of Taree, has done a wonderful job with San Marco since he joined his stable just over a year ago.
The consistent five-year-old son of Smart Missile has won four races and been placed another nine times in his 17 starts for Ball.
San Marco has really hit his straps in recent months, putting together a hat-trick of wins at Taree (March 15), Coffs Harbour (June 21) and at Randwick (July 6). And he was unlucky not to stretch that sequence of wins when an unlucky second to Oakfield Captain at Hawkesbury at his latest outing on August 1.
He wanted to lay in under pressure and proved difficult to ride over the final stages, which probably cost him the win.
A $155,000 purchase at the 2016 Inglis Classic yearling sale, San Marco was originally in the Sydney stables of Gary Moore.
He failed to win in first seven starts, before he was purchased last year for $16,000. San Marco is raced by Peter Ball's daughter Gaye Ball and Barry Rumbel, and has gone on to win about $124,000 in prizemoney for the part-owners.
San Marco is a dual acceptor at Sunday's Taree meeting. He is the first emergency in the Lightning (1000m) but seems certain to gain a run with Gosford sprinter Second Island more likely to run at the Kensington meeting on Saturday.
San Marco runs second at Hawkesbury on August 1
Lightning candidates Designer Maid and Koonunga are also acceptors in the same Kensington race.
San Marco is also an acceptor in Sunday's $50,000 Country Magic Benchmark 66 Hcp (1250m) at Taree.
But connections are eyeing off a Lightning run and view San Marco's barrier nine as a definite blessing rather than a major setback.
"A run in the Lightning over the 1000m was always our preference," said Gaye Ball.
"He's better suited over the 1000m and he also would have to carry 62.5kg in the 1250m race.
"We drew barrier nine in the Lightning and many people might think that's a bad thing, but not in our case. He definitely needs to draw out wide to show his best - he doesn't like racing on the inside of horses. Barrier nine is a perfect draw as far as we're concerned.
"Dad has this horse going great. He just seems to have matured since Dad's had him and we've also learned two things about him - he likes to get to the outside in his races and you don't use the whip on him.
"He's a fit and happy horse going into Sunday's race.
"Gary Moore came up to congratulate us on how well he's racing when we were at Hawkesbury the other week when he ran second - which was very nice of him."
Peter Ball, 81, didn't travel down to Sydney to see San Marco's win in the TAB Highway at Randwick two runs back on July 6, but will definitely be on track at Taree on Sunday.
"Dad stayed at home the day San Marco won at Randwick and watched the race on TV - the long trip to Sydney and back would have been a bit much - but he's definitely coming with us on Sunday."
San Marco's rivals on Sunday include Coffs Harbour nine-year-old Gunnaza who continues to race well and is making his first visit to Taree since he ran in the Lightning back in 2016, finishing a close second to Plateau Gold.
Leading trainer Kris Lees could be represented by Designer Maid in the Lightning if she runs at Taree instead of the Kensington meeting on Saturday.
Designer Maid flopped as favourite when she resumed at Eagle Farm on July 20 but had trialled impressively prior to that first-up run and had won her three of her first four starts before spelling.