THE long wait for racing to return to Benalla is finally over.
The embattled club will host a bumper meeting tomorrow with the $100,000 Benalla Cup (2046m) the feature on the nine-race card.
Benalla had to abandon it cup meeting last year with ongoing problems with the track surface.
Tomorrow will be the club’s first meeting since March when a hole was found in the track, forcing Racing Victoria to close the course indefinitely.
Leading local trainer Wayne Nichols said while the ordeal had been frustrating, he was confident it was over.
“The track is in terrific order,” Nichols said.
“Hopefully, the dramas of the past 18 months are over and it will be onwards and upwards.
“It was no one’s fault and (club manager) Brendan Storer and (president) Greg McNulty have worked pretty hard to get things back on track.
“They have done a pretty good job of it.”
Nichols is after his first victory in his hometown cup, with Even Adam.
The race has been a hoodoo for local trainers. No Benalla-trained horse has won in 40 years.
Even Adam is a $41-chance in early markets with the Peter Moody-trained Vatuvei expected to be the hardest to beat.
“What usually happens at Benalla has happened again,” Nichols said.
“The nominations look sensational but when it comes to acceptances, the top half dozen weighted horses don’t accept.
“The quality of the field has dropped away significantly which doesn’t suit a trainer like me with an outsider in the race.
“When the top-weights don’t accept, is compresses the weights and disadvantages the bottom-weighted horses.
“It’s a shame it happens. It favours horses like Vatuvei and Dowager Queen who have a rating of over 80 yet only have to carry the minimum of 54 kilograms.
“But my horse will appreciate the 2000 metres and drops three kilograms from last start. I expect him to be running home strongly.”
Nichols is also after back-to-back victories in the $50,000 Weary Dunlop Hcp, (1206m), with classy sprinter Dad Knows Best.
Stablemate Diplomatic Force captured the feature sprint for Nichols in April when the race was rescheduled and run at Wangaratta when last year’s cup meeting was abandoned.
“I was happy with his first-up run over 1000 metres with a huge weight,” Nichols said.
“But I think he is more a 1200-metre horse these days and will be ultra- competitive.
“Overtake and Produced are in winning form and look the testing material.”
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