Canberra-trained Almost Court is being set for a charge to the Caulfield Cup after making his comeback to racing at Thoroughbred Park on Friday, setting the stage for a potential showdown with Single Gaze in Melbourne.
Newly-formed family training trio Paul Jones, Barbara Joseph and Matt Jones will monitor Almost Court's progress in the coming weeks before deciding if they will contest the Caulfield Cup for the first time in 15 years.
The Canberra Cup winner returned to the track with a gallop between races in the capital on Friday and will race in Sydney and Newcastle in his comeback.
Barbara Joseph's Ain't Seen Nothin' ran fifth in the Caulfield Cup in 2003 and Single Gaze, formerly trained by Nick Olive, finished second in the famous race last year.
Almost Court would give Joseph and her sons a chance to return to Melbourne for the spring carnival, but the move will hinge on results in the coming weeks.
Almost Court won five times in the 2017-18 season, including the $130,000 Canberra Cup (2000 metres) before being sent to the paddock at the end of March.
Paul Jones said they would wait until after the third race of the preparation to make a call on the Caulfield Cup. If they opt against the Caulfield Cup, they will likely enter the Craven Plate on Everest day at Randwick.
"We were very, very happy with him. [Jockey] Christian [Reith] was down in Canberra on Friday so we wanted to get him on board and he was very impressed with him," Jones said.
"He felt like he'd come back more developed, more furnished and a bit more genuine. We'll probably take the softer option of a benchmark race next weekend and then step up into Group races."
"We've got to make our mind up soon but we'll wait to see. He's obviously got to be running competitively in those races to warrant a run in the Caulfield Cup. But I'm really happy with how he's come back."
Single Gaze is set to return to racing next weekend after leaving Canberra to join the Chris Waller stable before she begins a breeding career in Japan.
Joseph has been training for almost 40 years and teamed up with Paul a decade ago. Matt joined the partnership last week and Joseph is excited to have the family connection.
"It's great for me, this is what I've wanted to happen for years and it's a great plan going ahead," Joseph said.
"It's sort of fulfilled my dreams getting them both in there and taken some responsibility off me. I'm very happy about it and I'm sure they are too.
"[Matt's] been talking about it for the past five or six years and has been with us on and off. I can't tear myself away, I'll try to tell them what to do but they probably won't listen anyway."
Meanwhile, there was a spread of winners on the eight-race card at Thoroughbred Park on Friday. The Luke Pepper-trained Keeper Girl won the benchmark 65 (1900 metres). Pepper was one of seven winning trainers on the day.
Former Single Gaze trainer-strapper combination Nick Olive and Billy Owen were the only ones to double up on victories, with Owen jumping into the saddle to lead Supreme Polarity and Dylan's Deeva to victories.
Reith won the opener aboard the Keith Dryden and Scott Collings-trained Rosecraft, while Joe Cleary won the last with Constitutional.