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Trainer Matthew Dale says Meticulously is ready to redeem himself at Canterbury after putting in his worst run ever at the track last year.

“We’ve cleared the slate and started again,” he said.

Meticulously had shown promise after finishing third in last year’s Black Opal Stakes, but suffered a serious dip in form at the start of his three-year-old season.

His slump reached its lowest point when he ran near last at Canterbury in July, with Dale deciding to give Meticulously a spell.

It’s a move that appears to have paid off, with early 2014 wins at Goulburn and Canberra.

But despite bad memories of Canterbury, Dale is confident Meticulously can “get in the thick of things” when he lines up in the theraces.com.au Handicap (1550m) on Wednesday.

“A lot of the time when a two-year-old has a tough campaign, there is a chance that they won’t come up the following preparation,” he said.

“He’s come up much stronger this time.”

Canberra-based Dale has nominated Meticulously for next month’s 2400m ATC Australian Derby at Randwick, but admits it’s a “pipedream” given he is racing beyond 1400m for the first time on Wednesday.

“We’ve always thought he wants more than the 1400 metres,” he said.

“But we’ll just test the water tomorrow.”

Looking ahead, the trainer says he’s happy with his autumn season chances despite not having any big names.

It’s a quality he shares with Bathurst-based Kevin Higgins who starts Supreme Laird, an outside chance in the Drummond Golf Handicap (1900m).

After contesting picnic-class races, the six-year-old surprised even his trainer to finish second in the Bathurst Cup last month.

It’s been a good result for a gift horse as Higgins prepares to have his first city runner.

“He was given to me for nothing off Gayna Williams as a present,” he said.

“She didn’t have much time to bring this fella up to speed, but she’d seen the potential.”

Higgins is using Wednesday’s race as a lead in to the Wellington Cup.

With just four horses in his stable, he admits he’s a bit daunted about going up against the industry’s best, but has faith in Supreme Laird’s ability.

“But we keep putting him to the test and he keeps performing,” he said.

 
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