Captain Ravishing Photo by Stuart McCormick
AS the masses gather to watch the stars at Flemington tomorrow, one of Australia's most talented horses, Captain Ravishing will be an hour away at Yarra Valley kick-starting a campaign aimed at resurrecting his career.
Early this year, Captain Ravishing was the most exciting pacer in the land, but niggling issues have restricted him to just one race in the past eight months.
Importantly, that run gave hope he could still be a major force in Australia's biggest races.
Captain Ravishing, who boasts nine wins from just 16 starts, ran a slashing third in the world's richest race, the $2.1mil TAB Eureka, on a rushed preparation at Menangle on September 2.
Trainer Ahmed Taiba has since had to scratch him from the Group 1 Victoria Cup on October 14 with an elevated temperature.
But Taiba says the four-year-old is primed for his anxiously awaited return in tomorrow's $30,000 Yarra Valley Cup (2650m), where Nathan Jack will drive him for the first time.
"I'm really happy with him. I took him to Melton for a private workout week, and he went super," Taiba said.
"He's drawn well (gate four), has plenty of early speed, as he showed in the Eureka, and I'll be surprised if he doesn't go really well."
Taiba was also drawn to the long 2650m distance of tomorrow's feature.
"If we're looking at the Hunter Cup and some of the other bigger country cups along the way, this is a great race to find out how he goes over the longer trip.
"The Eureka was 2400m and, considering the battles we had to get him to the starting for that, he ran the distance pretty well."
"Everything tells me at home he's ready, but there's no substitute for racing, and that's why we're going to Yarra Valley."
Taiba and his brother, Hass, toyed with a Perth raid for their major four-year-old races next month but have opted to stay in Victoria.
"If he comes through this race well, he's got the Breeders Crown free-for-all (November 17 at Bendigo), and then we'll look towards the bigger country cups on our way to the Hunter Cup."
The other Yarra Valley highlight will be Ollivici's quest to overcome the lone 30m handicap in the Trotters' Cup.
It's a key lead-up race for the five-year-old ahead of next month's Brisbane Inter Dominion, where he is $7 favourite.
Plans with defending Inter Dominion trotting champion Just Believe are in limbo after his planned comeback race at Melton on Saturday night was scratched due to a lack of final acceptors.
Under Harness Racing Victoria rules, a race won't be run with five or fewer final acceptances.
"It's frustrating. It's the second time a crucial lead-up race for him hasn't held up," trainer Jess Tubbs said.
Just Believe, who hasn't raced since finishing second in Sweden on June 17, will likely go to the Breeders Crown Open Trot at Bendigo on November 17.
"Or we could look at taking him to a race at Menangle Saturday week and take away any risk of the Breeders Crown race not holding up as well," Tubbs said.
· Adam Hamilton is a paid contributor writing on harness racing for News Corp.