Emma Stewart is back.
And the Smythes Creek harness racing trainer looks like returning with a bang on her home track in Ballarat tonight.
She has not had a horse to the races this season, which is now in its third month.
Stewart and partner Clayton Tonkin had a remarkable 2011-12 with more than 100 wins.
These included six age group 1 winners.
Once their assault on the classics was over, Stewart and Tonkin followed what is now their regular routine of freshening up their team and taking a break.
With that now behind them, it is full steam ahead and an impressive line-up at Bray Raceway.
Stewart provided a taste of what is to come at Ballarat trials on Sunday, when she won seven of eight events.
Stewart lines up six starters on a nine-race card tonight, three of which won trials – the unbeaten duo of Our Missionary Man in the John Deere 3yo Pace, 2200m, and Manwarra Makamile in the Doepel, Lilley and Taylor Real Estate C1 Pace, 2200m; and Fearless Leader in Flying Horse Bistro C0 Pace, 2200m.
Stewart’s other starters are Mickey Mac in Kuhn Farm Machinery C7/better Pace, 2200m; Dee Millane in the DHL Stateplan C1/better Handicap, 2200m; and Mister Onetwo in the Windmill Ag C3-C4 Pace, 1710m
All also ran at Sunday’s trials, but had to settle for seconds to stablemates.
Misteronetwo chased home star four-year-old Restrepo, which is returning from a long-term injury.
Restrepo was shaping as one of the star three-year-olds of the season, but has not raced since being unplaced in the Victoria Derby early in the year.
Our Missionary Man has raced just twice for as many wins and there are high hopes for him as a three-year-old.
Manwarra Makamile has three wins from three starts, but it has not all been clear sailing for this Bookmaker gelding, which raced twice as a three-year-old and then did not re-appear until 18 months later in August this year.
KEAYANG Hanover gets a great opportunity to get back into winning form from the pole in the Kuhn Farm Machinery C7/better Pace, 2200m.
He is on the way back from a long break from racing.
A grand circuit and country cups campaigner, Terang trainer Margaret lee has given Keayang Hanover three starts since an 18-month absence and looks ready to win after a third to Caribbean Blaster in a free-for-all second-up.
He will be well suited by the small field of six.
Lee also has strong chances with Jilliby Tarzan in the Flying Horse Bistro C0 Pace, 2200m, and Keayang Falcon in the DHL Stateplan C1/better Handicap, 2200m.
WHILE on the theme of comebacks, The Rogue Trader ($4.60) has had to endure one on his way to a win in a C1 pace, 2180m, at Terang on Monday.
The son of Pass The Mustard had just the one start in each of the calendar years of 2008 and 2009 before finally getting some continuity in 2010.
The Rogue Trader disappeared from the scene late in that year until September this year and his second career win came up for Ballarat trainer-driver Nathan Cahir in his fourth run back.
SADDLE trot specialist Optimum is on target to secure the inaugural Victorian Monte Championship.
With Anne-Maree Conroy in the saddle, Optimum ($3.20 favourite) again showed his liking for the alternative mode of racing by taking out the opening championship heat at Bendigo.
Opitmum, which is trained by Bob Conroy at Daylesford, has earned the title of the state’s premier saddle trotter since the monte came into prominence late last year.
The eight-year-old took out an exhibition monte at the Ballarat Pacing Cup meeting in January and then went on to take out a heat and final series at Bendigo and Melton.
The Bendigo heat of the newest series was the first of seven, which lead to an $8000 final at Melton on March 23.
Ballarat will host one of the heats on pacing cup night on Friday, January 25.