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Sydney’s first Group One of the autumn is right on the doorstep and leading rider Nash Rawiller has a spring in his step.

“The (Gai Waterhouse) team has really come good the last three weeks and I’m really happy going into the carnival,” Rawiller said.

“If you had asked me a month ago, a few of them seemed to be going through the motions but they’ve really stepped up a notch our horses at home and they’re right on track now.”

The first Group One of the year in Sydney will be run on Saturday at Warwick Farm and warhorse Theseo, with Rawiller aboard, will spearhead a four-pronged Waterhouse representation in the Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m).

A minor setback at the start of Theseo’s campaign meant he will go first-up into the Chipping Norton – a race he won second-up 12 months ago.

“He has been in work quite a long time, he’s had three trials and the most recent trial we tried to give him a really good hitout,” Rawiller said.

“He knows when it’s race day though so he kept a bit up his sleeve, the old boy.

“He looks as good as ever and his action has felt great in his trials.

“You would imagine he’ll be a little bit vulnerable on Saturday but you’ve also got to remember that he’s trained by Gai and I’m sure she’s got him pretty close to the mark.”

Theseo returned from a long lay-off in the Apollo Stakes (1400m) last autumn when he was unplaced.

Two weeks later he showed all of his tenacity to fight back and beat Rangirangdoo in a thrilling Chipping Norton.

It was Waterhouse’s sixth Chipping Norton victory and Rawiller’s first.

“In the Apollo last year I came out of the race very happy because he did a lot of work to cross from a wide barrier and he really hit the wall about 150 metres out,” he said.

“From there Gai was able to put the finishing touches on him and he was able to get up second-up.

“Really to him, first-up has been a non-event for him until he gets up to a mile (1600m).”

But with three trials under his belt, and knowing the gelding’s fighting spirit, Rawiller certainly won’t discount the five-time Group One winner on Saturday.

“I wouldn’t count him out,” he said.

Rawiller and Waterhouse are chasing their second Group One success in a week after combining in Melbourne last Saturday when glamour mare More Joyous took out the Futurity Stakes (1400m).

Last season’s Sydney premiership-winning hoop will also continue his association with outstanding filly More Strawberries in the Group Two Surround Stakes (1400m) on Saturday.

The three-year-old ran a courageous third with topweight of 57kg against older mares in the Listed Triscay Stakes (1200m) two weeks ago.

The performance prompted owner John Singleton to declare the Surround Stakes “over”.

“She’s back to set weights so she’s got a huge advantage there, and she was sensational first-up,” Rawiller said.

“She’s taken good improvement, she had a fairly hard run so we haven’t had to bottom her out since, she had her last hitout (on Tuesday) morning and she’s right on track.”

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