Trainer Peter Balzen has been waiting nearly two years for Group Three winner Big Tree to get back to the track.
Balzen, who now trains in partnership with Nicole Tanti, will have Big Tree in Saturday’s Matt Dunn Racing Open Handicap (1200m) at the Gold Coast for his first race since he ran second at Eagle Farm in September, 2016.
Big Tree has always shown enormous potential and won the Group Three Ken Russell Classic as a two-year-old in 2015.
The now six-year-old was also placed in the Listed Mick Dittman Plate at three.
But Balzen has had a constant battle to get Big Tree back to the racetrack.
“It always seems to happen with the good ones. He has been and out a few times over the past two years,” Balzen said.
“We have had nothing but trouble with his feet. So it has been a long two years but I have never given up hope and have been waiting for the day he could race again.”
Big Tree has had two trials in preparation for Saturday with the latest a win over Group One performer Tom Melbourne.
“He will probably want another run but I liked the latest trial and he should get a nice trail from barrier six,” Balzen said.
Michael Cahill who won the Ken Russell on Big Tree has been riding him in trials and track work
“Michael has always liked the horse and said he worked very well on Tuesday morning,” Balzen said.
“So here is hoping the wait was worth it as it has been a long two years.”
Reigning champion apprentice Jag Guthmann-Chester will have a rare ride for Eagle Farm trainer Robert Heathcote at the meeting aboard Lordag in the Quantum Training Handicap (1800m).
Lordag has paid the price for his recent good form, which includes a third in the Listed Tatts Mile, with top weight of 59kg with Guthmann-Chester to claim two kilos.
Heathcote has been on holiday and stable foreperson Mel Sharpe was quick to book Guthmann-Chester when she realised several other apprentices would not be riding at the meeting for various reasons.
“Jag was leading apprentice last season and can still claim two kilos so it is ideal for Lordag,” she said.
Now an eight-year-old, Lordag has been a loyal servant for Heathcote having won eight races and just under $400,000 prize money.