Warrnambool trainer Matthew Williams ventured to Ballarat on Tuesday morning to find the best surface available for the first serious gallop for comeback Group 1 winner Gailo Chop (FR).
While most other tracks around the state are rain affected, the rising nine-year-old took to the synthetic surface at Ballarat where he proved to Williams and his patient connections that the past 15 months of rehabilitation from a tendon injury have been worth it.
"It was his first gallop with a rider on today as all his other gallops have been on the treadmill," the trainer explained.
"So that was his first serious hit-out since his injury and he's pulled up terrific after it.
"He's walked back nice and sound. He pulled up terrific in the wind - he wouldn't have blown a candle out when he came back.
"He was very forward as far as what we can do at home before bringing him here today, he worked off over the 1000 metres and had a nice working gallop over the last 600.
"He'll get another couple of pieces of work like that with the rider on him and be ready to trial."
The multiple Group 1 winner of more than $4 million in prizemoney has not raced since finishing second to Winx in the 2018 Group 1 the Queen Elizabeth Stakes over 2000m at Randwick after he had earlier won the Group 1 Ranvet Stakes over 2000m at Rosehill, but the import has responded to a long, slow build-up.
"We've had him since January doing a rehab program and he was doing some rehab before he came to us, so it's been a long process but it's gone very well so far," Williams said.
"He certainly doesn't feel like an eight-year-old horse to ride. He's very good in his action still and very sparky on the trot and got a good feel about him so I think we'll still a good chance to hopefully get to that day at Moonee Valley (Cox Plate)."
Williams said Gailo Chop was now ready to step up his preparation to ready for his comeback race in the G1 Makybe Diva Stakes at Flemington in September.
"He's a little bit showy condition-wise but by the time we trial at Cranbourne on the 5th of August and then again in the middle of August and then again in early September - his last two trials will be over the 1500 metres they have at Cranbourne - and I'm pretty sure we'll have him pretty forward first-up for the Makybe Diva," he said.
Gailo Chop (FR) winning the 2018 Group 1 Ranvet Stakes at Rosehill, picture Stevehart.com.au