Dwayne Dunn wasted no time getting back to winning ways at Sandown in his first ride since recovering from a potentially career-ending injury.
Dunn had been sidelined since mid-December after being diagnosed with bulging discs in his neck.
He did everything to avoid surgery and with daily physio and strengthening of the muscles around his neck and shoulders, he has been able to make his return.
He partnered Just Wonderful to a hard-fought victory in the opening race on Wednesday.
“It’s one of those things, I think if I had the operation it would be game over (for my riding career),” Dunn said.
“It was a matter of just trying everything else I can before that had to be put in place.
“That could happen in my next ride or I could get a year or two out of it. It’s something that has to be done at some stage, but hopefully I can prolong it for long enough.”
Dunn had his fitness tested in a driving finish to the Yellowglen Plate (1400m) as Just Wonderful ($3.80) kept finding in front to win by a short neck.
“I had to dig deep late,” Dunn said.
Just Wonderful is trained by the Hawkes Racing team of John and his sons Wayne and Michael.
Dunn has enjoyed much success for the stable, most notably with star colt All Too Hard, and said being on the sidelines while the Hawkes team had been firing was tough.
“It’s great to be back and be back amongst it,” he said.
Dunn had three rides at Sandown but was glad his commitments did not extend to the Marathon Series Final over 4000m, won by Craig Newitt on Hawkesinthesky.
“I just couldn’t handle something like that this close to the start (of the comeback),” Dunn said.