Bookmakers have been unable to separate gun three-year-olds Swoop Dog and First Accused in their early markets on the $100,000 Launceston Guineas at Mowbray on Wednesday night.
Major corporates Ladbrokes, Sportsbet and tab.com.au all have them equal favourites at $2.50.
To many form students, that will be a little surprising, given that Swoop Dog beat First Accused convincingly in the Tasmanian Guineas 12 days ago and, on face value, looks better suited than his rival by the step up from 1600m to 2100m.
However bookies always show a very healthy respect for the Scott Brunton - David Pires combination and the 'old firm' is back together for this race.
Pires will be having his first ride on First Accused who has won two races for Georgie Catania and one for Kyle Maskiell.
Catania had the ride again when the gelding raced on the speed but was run down by Swoop Dog in the Tasmanian Guineas.
Brunton is philosophical about First Accused's chances.
"I don't normally go to the 2100m with them but he got beaten in the (Tasmanian) Guineas so I'll try (again)," he said.
John Blacker said Swoop Dog was right at his peak.
"He pulled up really well after winning over the mile and he'll go into this race 100 per cent - if anything, even a little bit fitter than last time," Blacker said.
"The 2100m will suit him, he's got a good draw and, if he gets the right run, I think he'll be very strong at the finish again."
Trainers and jockeys expressed satisfaction with recent remedial work at Elwick after the troublesome track was put to the test on Tuesday morning.
Scott Brunton said he was happy with the track's condition and Siggy Carr reported there were no signs of the turf patches that led to the December 27 meeting being abandoned.
Carr rode four of the 12 horses that galloped on the track and said it "rode beautifully".
Flemington racecourse manager Liam O'Keeffe was again in attendance and also gave the track the thumbs up after the gallops.
Tasracing CEO Paul Eriksson said there would be another opportunity for participants to walk the track on Thursday.
Racing returns to the venue on Sunday with the $100,000 Elwick 2YO, $50,000 Summer Cup and $50,000 Thousand Guineas.
The Summer Cup has attracted quality entries headed by Eastender, Mandela Effect and Toorak Affair.
Scott Brunton has class galloper The Inevitable back in work after injury ended his spring campaign.
The Inevitable hasn't raced since the worst run of his career when last at Caulfield in mid-October.
Brunton said the five-year-old was subsequently diagnosed with PODS - short for palmar osteochondral disease - which is an injury found almost exclusively in thoroughbreds.
It affects the lower ends of the cannon bone and is associated with high-speed racing and training.
However, in its mildest form, it is just bruising and, with early intervention and appropriate treatment, the prognosis is usually good.
Brunton said that The Inevitable had been doing some rehap training and was now back in work.
"We'll take small steps and hope everything works out OK," he said.
The Inevitable has won eight races including the $500,000 Silver Eagle at Randwick and earned $740,000 in stakes.
Dark Wanderer, the best-backed runner in this year's Devonport Cup, will be kept to shorter races when he returns from a freshen up.
After winning his first five starts and placing in the Sheffield Cup, Dark Wanderer was backed into $4 second favourite for the $100,000 feature but weakened to finish 10th, beaten 12 lengths.
Trainer Sarah Cotton said that, with the benefit of hindsight, she would not have run the lightly-raced five-year-old in the 1880m race.
"It was only his seventh start and he probably wasn't quite ready," Cotton said.
"As it turned out, he did too much work, pulled too hard and didn't run out the trip.
"He pulled up quite flat so we'll freshen him up now and bring him back for a benchmark race then maybe look at weight-for-age."
The $100,000 Mowbray Stakes over 1600m on Launceston Cup day looks a logical target.
Cotton has only nine horses in work, including a few two-year-olds "just going through the system".
She boasts an impressive strike-rate, having won 11 races with just 50 starters over the past two years.
A funeral service will be held at Mowbray Racecourse tomorrow (Thursday) starting at 1.30pm for well respected racing and sporting identity Jeff Chugg who died suddenly last week aged 61.
Chugg was deputy chairman of the Tasmanian Turf Club and a prominent racehorse owner.
He had a successful association with Cressy trainer Cameron Thompson and one of their best horses, Concentrate, won in Victoria.
Thompson paid tribute to his long-time owner on Facebook:
"Jeff loved Tasmanian racing and his passing will leave a huge hole in the industry," he said.
"His support for CRT Racing was just incredible and myself, (wife) Beth and the team are heartbroken with his loss."
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