TRAINER Norm Gardner declared on Saturday that the reliable Coliseo is in better shape now than he was this time last year.
Coliseo enjoyed a superb campaign last year, winning the Wagga Cup (2000 metres ) and running a close third in the Canberra Cup over the same distance.
Although his first-up performance last start at Warwick Farm would suggest he is a far cry from the horse we saw last year, Gardner disagrees.
"He just got back too far and was run off his legs. He probably came from 12 lengths off to get beaten four-and-a-bit lengths," the Canberra trainer said.
"I'm happy with him at the moment - he's going good. He's looking better in this campaign than this stage last year."
Coliseo will race second-up in Sunday's Siren Bar & Restaurant Cup Preview Open Handicap (1600 metres).
The six-year-old won the corresponding race last year - his seventh start of that campaign.
But the odds seem stacked against him on Sunday considering he will carry more weight this time, even after apprentice Winona Costin's three-kilo claim.
Gardner, however, is confident his galloper will be fighting out the finish.
"I think he'll go close," Gardner said. "He might struggle a bit under the big weight but at least he's just walking down the road. He's not travelling three hours to Sydney."
"He hasn't got much gate speed, so he'll settle back. It's not a big field and hopefully there's a bit of pace on so he can get home."
A win would be ideal leading into the $200,000 ACTTAB Canberra Centenary Cup in a fortnight, and Gardner is adamant Coliseo will have no troubles covering the 2000-metre trip early in his campaign.
"Provided he keeps going the way he is, he'll go to the Canberra Cup, then the Manion Cup [2400 metres] like he did last year, and then the Chairmans [2600)]," he said. "We're hoping to have him in the Sydney Cup. If he doesn't, we'll go to the Wagga Cup again."