Trainer Wayne Wilkes is delighted with the progress of stable newcomer Fuel who lines up for his third run back from a lengthy layoff in Thursday's Harrington Cup (1300m) at Taree.
The Taree-based trainer nominated both Fuel and stablemate Gripped for the Harrington Cup as well as Saturday's TAB Highway at Randwick but has decided to split his runners.
"No point in them clashing so Gripped will run at Randwick and Fuel will run here at Taree," said Wilkes.
Both horses have impressed Wilkes with their progress since they joined his stable.
Gripped is certainly making up for lost time as far as his racing career is concerned. He didn't make his debut until he was a five-year-old, winning first-up at Tamworth in April last year for his then trainer Brett Cavanough. He didn't appear again until November when he resumed for the Wilkes stable, finishing fourth at Port Macquarie before winning his most recent start at Coffs Harbour on December 15.
"Both Gripped and Fuel are both new to me, but are both going along very nicely," said Wilkes.
Fuel has had just the two runs for Wilkes after doing his earlier racing under the care of Goulburn trainer Danny Williams. A five-year-old son of Not A Single Doubt, Fuel won two of first nine starts for Williams but had a year off from racing prior to resuming for Wilkes last month.
He was beaten a length when he resumed for fourth behind San Sierra in a Class 2 at Taree on December 5 then finished a half-length second to Great Job in a Class 3 at the same track on December 24.
"Not sure why he had the long layoff - he hasn't shown any signs of any problems since he's been with me and has come back in pretty good order," said Wilkes.
"His two runs for me have both been pretty good and he's improved with each run as you'd expect coming back from a long break."
Apprentice Chloe Baker, who has ridden Fuel at his past two starts, continues the association on Thursday and will take a 1.5kg claim.
The 10-horse Harrington Cup field looks an open affair with several leading chances including the Gosford mare Kopite, a Taree winner two runs back, Newcastle galloper Buon Natale, who is resuming, and the Gosford-trained Deangelo who has been narrowly beaten at his only two previous Taree starts.
Thursday's seven-race meeting is the first to be conducted by the Manning Valley Race Club, formed after the recent merger of the Taree-Wingham and Krambach clubs.
The Taree track is currently rated a Soft 5. The rail will be in the true position.