Trainer Scott Brunton is hoping the Benchmark 78 Handicap at Caulfield on Saturday could be a stepping stone to group 1 glory for his top mare Hela.
The four-year-old is $3.80 favourite with tab.com.au to begin her spring campaign on a winning note.
At the moment, Mystic Journey and Still A Star are up on a pedestal but I'll be looking to knock them off.- Hela's trainer Scott Brunton
Brunton hasn't announced any plans for Hela beyond her initial assignment but was upbeat when asked if there was a chance she could join Mystic Journey and Still A Star in the group 1 Empire Rose at the end of October.
"As long as she comes up OK and comes back better than she left us, I would say she'll be right in the thick of things in races like that," the trainer said.
"At the moment, Mystic Journey and Still A Star are up on a pedestal (by themselves) but I'll be looking to knock them off."
Hela won all seven starts in Tasmania last season, including the Thousand Guineas and Strutt Stakes, before suffering the only defeat of her career in the Australasian Oaks in Adelaide.
She has been in Melbourne for about three weeks and Brunton is happy with her progress.
"She's in good order," the trainer said.
"On Tuesday last week she had a soft trial at Stawell and went really good.
"She had a grass gallop at Ballarat on Tuesday morning and I couldn't be happier with the way she's come through that."
Brunton will travel to Victoria on Thursday to supervise the final stages of Hela's preparation.
"My pass allows me to travel over with a couple of my other horses," he said.
"As long as I stay out of the hotspots I can go to the races then come home and have a few tests over the following three to four days.
"As long as they are all-clear, I can resume work."
Brunton said it hadn't been difficult preparing Hela from afar as he was getting good assistance.
"(Apprentice) Tahlia Hope and Mitch Freedman have been looking after her at Ballarat and have done an exceptional job," he said.
"I'm extremely grateful for their help."
Brunton said he expected Hela to be "very hard to beat" on Saturday.
"We've got a few options after that but we'll get over this one first," he said.
Hela's stablemate Queen La Diva will be the highest-rated runner at Spreyton on Sunday.
The six-year-old full sister to former top galloper Kenjorwood is an acceptor for the Open Handicap over 1350m.
She hasn't raced since finishing down the track in the $250,000 VOBIS Gold Heath at Caulfield in mid-April.
Her last two runs in Tasmania were a respectable seventh in the Launceston Cup, beaten only three lengths, and a runaway win in a 1600m Open Handicap at Mowbray a month later.
Appropriately, given her name, Queen La Diva has rubbed shoulders with racing royalty during her 28-start career.
She was in the stables of Darren Weir, Team Hawkes and Lindsey Smith before transferring to Scott Brunton at the end of last year.
A winner at Flemington and Sandown, the mare has a rating of 85 which would have entitled her to topweight of 60.5kg in Sunday's race.
However with the 2kg rating allowance for mares, she gets in quite nicely with 58.5kg and will be ridden by David Pires.
Two apprentices are listed to ride in their first races at Spreyton on Sunday.
Taylor Johnstone, who is apprenticed to Leon Wells, has been booked for stable runners Gee Gees Buzz and Gee Gees Jennia.
Tayah Stalker is on Trojan Storm for her master Cameron Thompson.
Last week's meeting again saw two horses scratched due to a shortage of jockeys but that won't be a problem on Sunday.
None of the eight races will have more than 10 starters and three will have seven or less.
RISING LIGHT (R1): Just failed to catch Ancona at same track last week when winner dictated terms in front. Stays at 1650m whereas some of his main dangers are dropping back from 1880m.
MEIGETSU (R2): Came out running in Spreyton trial nine days ago and held on to beat promising mare Assaranca by a long neck. On exposed form, there are no Assarancas in this field.
WANE'S QUEST (R3): Heavily backed at debut when bounded in air at start then used up plenty of petrol in bid to lead but couldn't cross to rail. Faded late but can be expected to improve with easier run.
GEE GEE REAL DEAL (R4): Caught wide, which has been pretty much the story of her life, when third to impressive winner Party In Style a fortnight ago. Will surely get better run from barrier 1 but is on her last chance.
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