Coghills Creek trainer Terry Kelly has chosen the $500,000 Sportsbet Ballarat Cup to launch the comeback of one of his all-time stable favourites Skelm.
Skelm's appearance in the listed feature on Saturday will be his first race start since bowing a tendon in the Adelaide Cup in March last year.
Kelly at the time believed the injury marked the end of the now nine-year-old's racing career
"We thought that was it," he said.
"He'd done a marvellous job (winning seven races and earning more than $600,000) so we pulled the pin."
He said Skelm was put out in the paddock without a structured rehabilitation program to enjoy retirement.
"He wasn't a happy camper in retirement though.
"He was bouncing around so we thought why not do some rehab work on the treadmill.
"Here we are, bobbing up in the Ballarat Cup."
Kelly said all the credit for getting Skelm back to the races went to his partner Angela Bridges, and their niece Emma Church, who is a trainer in her own right.
He said Bridges had basically looked after Skelm from the day he had joined their stable before making his race debut in 2018, while Church rode him in all his track work.
Kelly said they could not be happier with the progress Skelm had made.
He said he had topped off his preparation with trials at Camperdown and Ararat - coming through each with flying colours.
"He's come home jumping out of his skin.
"He's a happy horse, a very happy horse."
Kelly said Church had described Skelm's latest work as the best of his career.
Skelm will not be Church's only interest in the Cup.
Her new husband, leading jockey John Allen, is aiming to win the race for the fourth time.
He went back-to-back on Kiwia in 2018 and 2019, and saluted again last year on Bankers Choice.
Allen will be aboard Just Folk for Cranbourne trainer Gavin Bedggood.
Skelm is the only Ballarat-trained runner among 13 acceptors for the Ballarat Cup, 2000m.
Ciaron-Maher and David Eustace have Wyclif lining up, but the seven-year-old is from their Cranbourne stable rather than their Ballarat base.
The Danny O'Brien-trained Young Werther is top weight after a third in the group 1 Champions Stakes at Flemington.
The field also features last-start group 3 Eclipse Stakes winner at Caulfield and Ain'tnodeeldun, which has won his past three styarts for 2023 Melbourne Cup winning-trainers Anthony and Sam Freedman.
Country cups specialist Captain Envious from the Horsham stable of Paul Preusker is also in the field.
The Murtoa Cup winner has been a model of consistency with top three finishes in the Gold Nugget in Ballarat, Horsham Cup and $500,000 Victorian Country Cups Final at Caulfield.
The Cup will be race eight on a 10-event program, with the first at 12.10pm