Deanna Troy's brilliant first-up win in the Kilmore Free Press Pacers Handicap at Kilmore on cup day was an ominous sign for her rivals in Saturday night's VSB&SA The Blossom Lady at Moonee Valley.
It proved the Graeme Lang-trained and driven 6-year-oldmare had come back as good as ever and she is usually at her best early in a preparation.
The Kilmore win, when she overcame a 20-metre handicap to beat the boys, took her record when resuming from a break of at least eight weeks to six wins from eight starts.
The bad news for her all-female rivals this weekend is that she boasts equally as impressive second-up stats. From seven second-up runs she has won five times.
It is therefore easy to understand why Gavin Lang is bullish about her chances in this weekend's $20,000 event.
"She's got a good record fresh up and the only query at Kilmore was probably the standing start - that was her first run from the stand - but she handled that no worries," he said.
"That was her first run back and she was pretty good, so you would expect that she would have gained further improvement from the run."
Lang's biggest concern this weekend is Deanna Troy's back-row draw of 11 in a preferential barrier draw event packed with mares off the front boasting several "ones" in their form.
Jazzam (two), Spring Hill (four) and Sophie Pass (six) are all drawn to be prominent, while Pacific Charm (10) and Mesmerizing (12) headline some classy second-line rivals.
"It is an awkward draw, but with an average run in transit she'll still be hard to beat because she's right up there with the best mares we've got in Victoria at present," Lang said.
Deanna Troy is one of a plum book of drives for Victoria's reigning metropolitan driving titleholder.
His other drives are likely favourites Tanabi Bromac (Seelite Windows and Doors Vicbred M0 Pace at 7.30pm) and Bonavista Bay (Victaulic 3YO Pace at 10.30pm), while he also takes the reins on Zitura in the John Kassis Financial Services Pace at 9pm.
Major up To tough ask
Under-rated driver Amy Tubbs is unlikely to ever be accused of not listening to her father, Melpark Major's trainer Alan Tubbs.
Ringing in the 24-year-old's ears ever since Melpark Major, a son of, came up with a less-than-ideal inside-back-row barrier for Saturday night's $50,000 Group 2 Legends Mile has been one of her father's favourite sayings.
"Dad always says that you can't call it a good or bad barrier until after the race," Tubbs said.
"It's awkward and puts us in a funny position to start with, but racing is a funny game and lots of funny things can happen. You can't just assume that things are going to run to a certain plan.
"There are some very good horses in this race and it's going to be very competitive, so it's going to depend on lots of different factors."
The most significant being what Mark Peace does aboard polemarkerin the early stages of the 1609-metre scamper, to be run at 9.30pm.
If he leads, Melpark Major could get a cheap run on the leader's back, but if Peace hands up Tubbs will find herself either buried away back on the pegs or forced to drop out and circle what is a star-studded field.
Last Saturday night's impressive Moonee Valley winners Decorated Jasper (barrier 10) and Jagged Knight (three), Kilmore Cup winner Bold Cruiser (five), the classy Mister Swinger (six) and tough-as-nails Manwarra Goforgold are some of the others engaged.
The Legends Mile is one of the key lead ups to the prestigious Miracle Mile and victory over such a quality field from a tricky starting position would all but secure Melpark Major a start in the November 28 race.
The five-year-old Troblemaker mare's only defeat in five starts this campaign was a third placing in the Chariots Of Fire and last start he was a head-spinning winner over Australasia's fastest pacer Smoken Up in the Popular Alm Sprint at Kilmore.
"He was a super run in the mile race last time and if he runs another good race on Saturday night hopefully he'll be firmly in contention for a spot in the Miracle Mile," Tubbs said.
Melpark Major's task was made slightly easier just hours after Wednesday's barrier draw when Antigua Bay, one of Victoria's in-form pacers, was scratched after being injured in trackwork.