It has been a long wait but Guy Walter is excited to finally welcome back the talented Al Dhafra at Rosehill on Saturday.
Al Dhafra burst onto the scene as a three-year-old, winning his first four races including the Canberra Guineas before being placed in the Phar Lap Stakes and winning the Listed Carbine Club Stakes at Randwick.
The now five-year-old gelding hasn’t started since October last year and makes his long-awaited comeback in Saturday’s Turner Freeman Handicap (1100m).
“We’re very happy to have him back,” Walter said.
“He was an exciting young horse, he’s still only lightly raced and we just hope now he’s injury-free.
“At the moment we just want to get him back racing, get him fully race fit and see how he goes.”
Al Dhafra started twice as a four-year-old, finishing unplaced in the Group Two Shorts (1200m) and Group Three Betfair Stakes (1400m) but injuries kept the son of Fusaichi Pegasus away from the action ever since.
“It was a combination of things,” Walter said.
“He had a lung infection in Melbourne and then he had a hind-limb lameness, a bit of bruising to the bone there last time in.
“We decided to give him a lengthy spell and then bring him back. This time in he’s been fine, he’s had two trials and he’s running on Saturday.
“He’s still burly but he’ll be running on.”
Walter will be forced to watch Al Dhafra’s return on television as he’ll be at Flemington for Victoria Derby Day where last-start stakeswinner Skyerush contests the Group One Myer Classic (1600m).
Another person thrilled to see Al Dhafra back is jockey Kathy O’Hara who reunites with the gelding on Saturday.
O’Hara rode Al Dhafra is all seven of his starts as a three-year-old but hasn’t ridden him in a race since April last year.
“I looked at him in the nominations and was happy to see he’s back,” O’Hara said.
“I didn’t trial him because I was racing that day but I’m really looking forward to riding him and seeing where he is at.”
Al Dhafra will face eight rivals including Group One winner Atomic Force who has topweight of 61kg and was installed the $2.50 favourite with TAB Sportsbet on Wednesday.
Phenomenal Lass was at $4 with the resuming Ahdashim at $4.80.
Al Dhafra was at $17.