IN LEAGUE terminology, Port Macquarie trainer Neil Godbolt was talking “lacking match fitness” and “having to play catch-up” when assessing the chances of last year's surprise winner Long Journey Home in the $17,000 Westlawn Finance Grafton Cup Prelude (2108m) today.
The six-year-old, because of factors beyond Godbolt's control, enters today's first feature event of the XXXX Gold July Racing Carnival on a lighter preparation than last year.
“I've been one run behind with him the whole way through this campaign,” Godbolt said. “The wet weather has buggered everything up.
“He's only had one race over 1500 metres. Last year he had three runs over 1600 metres.
“My fear is he's lacking match fitness, having to play catch-up.”
However, to help compensate, Long Journey Home, already nominated for the $150,000 Wykes Tyrepower Grafton Cup (2350m) on July 14, backs up after a 2.8 lengths fourth to Bondit in last Sunday's Bowraville Cup (1370m).
“He's raced well on a quick back-up in the past,” Godbolt said. “The idea was to give him a hard hit-out before today.
“At Bowraville, he drew the outside and had to work hard all the way.
“He kept whacking away over a trip well short of his best.
“He's pulled up good. I couldn't be happier in that regard.”
Long Journey Home, by Song Of Tara, has become a Prelude specialist.
After winning the Grafton Cup Prelude, the gelding also took the Taree Cup Prelude in August last year.
While Long Journey Home missed last year's Grafton Cup, the Kempsey-based syndicate of owners headed by Mattie Brennan is keen to tackle this year's premier race.
“The boys are keen to go around in the Grafton Cup, even though, if everything they're talking about turns up, it looks like being a very strong race,” Godbolt said.
“If Song Of Tara can repeat last year's Prelude run, he's going to be in the finish somewhere.”
Terry Treichel retains the mount.
Early markets have Long Journey Home listed at $8 behind equal $5 favourites Blackett Street and former Sydneysider Circle Of Fame, now trained by Ruth Cooper at Moonbi.
Locally-trained Starlist rates a $6 chance.
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