BEN Melham makes his return to race riding in Adelaide on Saturday in a group 1 event he captured last year – The Goodwood, 1200m.
He has been out of the saddle since having hip surgery last year.
Melham, who grew up and began his riding career in Ballarat as an apprentice with Darren Weir, will be aboard Smokin’ Joey for Mornington trainer Wez Hunter in the $500,000 sprint.
He could hardly have chosen a more appropriate race day to make his comeback.
Melham completed a group 1 double on the Weir-trained Platelet in Adelaide this time last year - The Sangster and The Goodwood.
Like Melham, Platelet is chasing back-to-back wins in The Goodwood. Brad Rawiller has the ride on Platelet, which has drawn in the ‘car park’ in 17 in the 20-strong field.
Melham has not ridden since Caulfield on November 16.
Although he has not ridden in any official trials since being given a medical clearance to resume, he has been riding trackwork for a few weeks and has also taken part in jumpouts.
Melham’s manager, Mathew Alesci, said on Tuesday that Melham would have at least three rides at Morphettville.
He said Melham was in good shape for his return, with a doctor giving him the all-clear to return to race riding about two weeks ago.
Melham will back up at Sandown Hillside on Sunday.
Alesci said Melham normally took a break in the winter, but after having so long on the sidelines would ride through as he rebuilt his contacts in the lead-in to spring.
Melham has ridden Smokin’ Joey just once – in January 2012 when the now six-year-old was prepared by Anthony Freedman.
Alesci said Melham had known Hunter for some time and ridden for him, winning on Bel Thor for the stable in the $100,000 Antler Luggage Handicap, 2000m, at Flemington on the last day of last year’s Melbourne Cup Carnival.
Melham had only one more win after that before having surgery.
Platelet is looking to go one better than her past two starts for Weir and Rawiller.
She is coming off a first-up win at Moonee Valley followed by two group seconds in Adelaide.