Former French galloper Gris Caro takes on Group One company for the first time when he contests the Turnbull Stakes at Flemington on Saturday.
The 2000-metre contest will be his final outing before the Caulfield Cup on October 18.
Gris Caro is exempt from the ballot for the Caulfield Cup following his victory in the Naturalism Stakes at Caulfield on September 20.
“He’s come on well from his last win,” trainer Jake Stephens said.
“He’s still got a little bit to go to to have him fully fit for the Caulfield Cup. We’ve kept a little bit of zip in him for this one and I think he’ll go OK.
“The barrier draw is good but it’s a tough race with four of the top eight 2000-metre horses in Australia engaged.
“We’re getting in all right with the weight, but he’ll need it as well, as these are seasoned, tough horses.”
Gris Caro has had the three runs back following a long break and it was his seventh placing behind The Cleaner in the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m) at Moonee Valley on September 6 that got Stephens excited about his spring prospects.
“He had a long spell, no autumn prep but he’s kept improving all the time,” Stephens said.
“The Dato, that got me excited, as he wasn’t far off some very good horses. I thought we were going to improve a lot more than some of those horses in that race.
“He’s in the best shape I’ve had him in now. He’s a bigger stronger horse than when he came from France.
“He’s getting fully fit now and getting used to the Australian way.”
Stephens said Gris Caro would make the trip over from his South Australian base at Victor Harbour on Friday and return home either Sunday or Monday where he has the use of the beach and the hills on the farm from which he trains.
“It all depends on how much the race takes out of him,” Stephens said. “Often it’s best to get going the day afterwards as they recover quicker back at home.”
Ben Melham rides the entire on Saturday but Hong Kong-based Joao Moreira takes the ride in the Caulfield Cup.