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Image: Darren Winningham
Smart sprinter Baller kicks off his carnival campaign at Eagle Farm.

The Victory Stakes has been a reliable winter carnival launching pad and for trainer Tony Gollan, it evokes fond memories.

Gollan’s first Group 1 winner Temple Of Boom beat stablemate Spirit Of Boom in the 2014 edition before his barn mate reversed the result a month later in the Doomben 10,000.

Brisbane’s leading trainer will be hoping he can pull off a similar feat at Eagle Farm on Saturday when he saddles up comeback galloper Vega One and the smart Baller.

Vega One’s battles have been well documented and the horse will be having his first start since finishing second in last year’s Stradbroke Handicap.

He was galloped on during that race and Gollan explained on his vimeo platform that the horse subsequently developed a serious infection that almost claimed his life.

“He was life or death two weeks later when the infection was really taking over in that back leg,” Gollan said.

It has been a long rehabilitation to get Vega One back to full health but Gollan is confident he can be competitive first-up, although he admits he might find some of his rivals too sharp.

“Can he run down the speedsters at 1200 fresh up? His record probably tells us that he can’t, but it will be a perfect starting point for him as we embark on hopefully getting back to the Kingsford-Smith (Cup) in four weeks time,” he said.

He is more bullish about the chances of Baller, who won back-to-back stakes races in impressive fashion last winter before a solid summer campaign that included a second to Zoutstyle in the George Moore Stakes.

The horse has a handy fresh record and possesses the tactical speed to put himself in the race.

“He is a horse that comes to hand quite quickly in a preparation,” Gollan said.

“He is going a bunch better than what he was in the summer. He is back to where he was last winter, if not better.

“I will actually be disappointed if he doesn’t run top-three on Saturday.”

Gollan’s Eagle Farm team will also include Ashgrove, who heads to the Queensland Guineas (1600m) off the back of a first-up fifth to Flying Crazy in the Daybreak Lover Stakes (1400m).

“My whole mindset from the minute we put him out in the late spring-early summer was to be back for the Queensland Guineas and hopefully the better races in the winter,” Gollan said.

“His first-up run was terrific, he has improved out of sight from that and his trackwork since has been unbelievable for him.”

“He is an outstanding top-three hope.”

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