He surprised me a lot. He showed a good bit of dash up the running ... and was really good through the line. He felt really good.Jockey James McDonald
One of Australia's best jockeys has given Tasmanian cups hero Eastender a glowing endorsement ahead of his return to racing.
James McDonald said the six year-old had gone much better than he expected in a 1000m trial at Rosehill nine days ago.
Eastender wasn't fully extended while finishing only 2-1/4 lengths behind boom Sydney stayer Avilius.
"He surprised me a lot," McDonald said.
"He showed a good bit of dash up the running, stayed on the bridle for the majority of the trial and was really good through the line.
"He felt really good."
Eastender will have his first start for new trainer Chris Waller on the Kensington track at Randwick on Saturday.
Waller has gone straight to 1800m with the gelding who is second topweight with 60kg for the $125,000 Premiers Cup Prelude.
Sydney's leading trainer has booked in-form apprentice Chris Williams to claim 3kg.
Williams has ridden six city winners in the past five weeks.
Bookmakers expect Eastender to find the distance too short even while fresh and he opened at $31 with tab.com.au.
The Devonport, Hobart and Launceston cups winner hasn't started since a third to Steel Prince and Surprise Baby in the Andrew Ramsden at Flemington on May 25.
Both those horses are high up in early Melbourne Cup markets, with Surprise Baby on the second line of betting at $21 and Steel Prince at $26.
WET TRACK ON MYSTIC'S HORIZON
Mystic Journey has avoided one wet track but may have to confront another when she resumes in the P B Lawrence Stakes at Caulfield on Saturday.
Trainer Adam Trinder bypassed the Bletchingly Stakes with Mystic Journey three weeks ago when the meeting was conducted on a soft 6 surface.
As of Wednesday morning, this week's track rating was exactly the same but, with minimal rain forecast for the next three days, there is a good chance of an upgrade.
Punters obviously expect Mystic Journey to run and win as they took $2.50 in the early all-in markets, with no refund if she's scratched.
She is now $1.85 with Ladbrokes, Sportsbet and tab.com.au.
The group 1 Australian Guineas and $5 million All-Star Mile winner has drawn perfectly in barrier 2 and Anthony Darmanin will again be in the saddle.
Second favourite for the $200,000 group 2 is nine-year-old veteran Hartnell who won the same race two years ago when also resuming from a spell.
Hartnell was runner-up to Mystic Journey in the All-Star Mile, beaten 1-1/4 lengths, and now meets her on 2.5kg better terms.
However the Tasmanian mare drew the second outside barrier and was never better than three wide, while Hartnell enjoyed a softer run.
Trainer James Cummings expects Hartnell to run well but concedes it will be hard for him to turn the tables.
"I think Mystic Journey is a pretty rare animal," he said.
"We were able to get close to her in the All-Star Mile but Mystic Journey did sit wide.
"All I know is that Hartnell has got the ability to be competitive this spring and I am certainly hoping to get another win or two out of him."
WILLBY UNABLE TO RULE AT SANDOWN
Tasmanian galloper Willby Rules failed to flatter on unfavourable track conditions at Sandown on Wednesday.
Apprentice Chelsea MacFarlane took the gelding back to near-last in the early stages to avoid being caught wide from the extreme outside gate.
Willby Rules appeared to resent being restrained and raced ungenerously until Hall moved him wider on the track.
He was unable to make any impression in the run home and finished 8-1/2 lengths from the winner.
The track was rated a heavy 9 and was favouring on-pace runners.
Willby Rules has a poor record on wet tracks, with his eight wins all coming on the synthetic surface at Spreyton.
Whitemore trainer Nigel Schuuring has been unable to find any suitable races for the gelding at Spreyton in the past month but there is a 1650m benchmark 82 coming up on Sunday week.
OPPORTUNITY TO HAVE A SAY
It's to be hoped harness racing participants take full advantage of the industry forums coming up in the next three weeks.
Judging by comments on social media, there is still widespread discontent, particularly with the rules related to field limits.
Conducting trot races with only four runners - as will be the case again in Hobart on Sunday night - seems to be a major bone of contention.
Trainer Kristy Butler said on Facebook that a race for three-year-old pacers with five nominations was deleted without entries even being extended.
"Really annoyed that I bothered to breed this year," she said. And, she got plenty of support.
Tasracing says that it is merely following the guidelines agreed to by the industry.
So it seems obvious the guidelines need to be revisited and the forums in Hobart on August 20, Devonport on September 3 and Launceston on September 5 will be the ideal place to do it.
There should be plenty of time to have a say, as each will run from 6pm to 9pm.