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Hucklebuck’s trainer Phillip Stokes is keeping his expectations in check ahead of the Group One winner’s return in the Australia Stakes at Moonee Valley.

The 2014 Emirates Stakes winner hasn’t raced since emerging from his unplaced run in the Group One Goodwood in Adelaide last May with knee issues.

“He’s had some knee problems so he had to have a bit of minor surgery and he seems to be over that now and going well,” Stokes said.

Adelaide’s premier trainer said Hucklebuck had shown no signs of the problem in his preparation but added the five-year-old was carrying excess weight going into his first start for eight months.

“He’s had a couple of jump-outs going into this but he’s still very big in condition and nowhere near his fighting weight,” Stokes said.

“He hasn’t raced since May. He’ll need the run and hopefully that will tighten him up for the Orr Stakes three weeks later.”

The C F Orr Stakes and the Futurity Stakes, both weight-for-age Group One races at Caulfield over 1400m next month, are the targets ahead of a possible trip to Sydney in the autumn.

“We’ll get those (Melbourne races) over and done with and then see whether he goes to The Championships or not,” Stokes said.

Jockey Dom Tourneur will continue his association with Hucklebuck in Saturday’s 1200m weight-for-age sprint.

Hucklebuck has won eight of his 14 starts highlighted by his Emirates Stakes win over subsequent dual Group One winner Lucky Hussler.

“We’re looking forward to having him back,” Stokes said.

“He’s a class horse and the form around him has obviously stood up.”

Mourinho will be out to defend his Australia Stakes title while last year’s runner-up It Is Written is also being aimed at the race on his favourite track.

 
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