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Michael Lane is rapt with the progress of Free Trade and has targeted Saturday week’s G3 Roma Cup (1200m) as the gelding’s return.

Lane has patiently brought Free Trade back to peak fitness after illness kept the seven-year-old sidelined for close to a year.

Free Trade will make his first appearance since finishing a distant 12th to The Velvet King in last May’s Belmont Sprint (1400m).

It capped a disappointing winter campaign after previous big defeats in the Roma Cup (1200m) and Northam Stakes (1100m) respectively.

It’s been a long road back for Free Trade, but all the indicators point to a positive return after a second warm up trial at Lark Hill on Monday.

The son of Trade Fair pushed frontrunner Puli to a close second in a 950m heat, giving Lane the confidence to say he’s ready to go in a fortnight.

“I’m very happy with how things are going well,” Lane told The Races WA.

“He’ll go to the Roma Cup and the Belmont Sprint and then I’ll back off.

“He’s had a good prep, seems nice and healthy and is in a good place.

“Hopefully, he can keep going and we’ll see what happens.”

Lane says illness rather than a muscle injury stopped Free Trade adding to his record of nine wins from 23 starts and prizemoney close to half a million dollars.

A multiple stakes winner, Free Trade has not gone past the judge first since winning the 2020 Listed Idyllic Prince Stakes (1300m) at Belmont as favourite.

Lane toyed with the idea of retiring Free Trade after last year’s Belmont Sprint, but said the horse deserved to have another shot at the bigger races.

“I always wanted to give him another go,” Lane said.

“It wasn’t like he was broken down or anything, but I didn’t want to see him run bad races.

‘He’s been too good a horse for us and that’s why he had such a long break.

“He’s had niggly knee injuries, but it was ulcers and stomach issues that were the main concerns.

“He couldn’t cope with the treatments we were giving him and he’d go off his feed.

“We’ve since changed treatments and train him out of a paddock.

“He’s not on edge being in a stable environment and seems to be handling the new treatment.

“Hopefully, he keeps going.”

Meanwhile Lane predicts a bright future for stable mate Pennys Afield.

The four-year-old has enjoyed a top maiden campaign, winning three races and placing on four occasions from seven starts.

The promising Reliable Man mare is in the paddock spelling after charging home from near last to win over 1500m in April.

“I’m pretty excited and think she is a nice horse in the making,” Lane said.

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