The Group One Australian Guineas is the aim for promising three-year-old The Quarterback but trainer Robbie Griffiths is keeping first-up expectations in check.
The Quarterback stamped himself as an exciting prospect with impressive wins at Bairnsdale and then Sale last spring and makes his return in Saturday's Group Three Manfred Stakes (1200m).
The Quarterback hasn't been seen since he toyed with his rivals in the Inglis Trophy (1400m) at Sale in October, coming from last under hands and heels riding to win by 1-1/4-lengths.
Griffiths said the gelding had been doing everything right at home and had shown enough to warrant aiming at the Guineas.
But he concedes the distance and weights are against The Quarterback first-up and will be happy just to see him hitting the line strongly.
"He couldn't have been any more impressive when he won at Sale," Griffiths said.
"He straightened up near last and picked them up in a heartbeat. He's the right style of horse to look as though he's the real deal.
"He's just got to prove it now, but I don't think he's going to be proving it over 1200 metres, that's all."
The Manfred has attracted a classy field of eight with Prince Harada installed favourite at $3 ahead of Golden Rose placegetter Bull Point at $4.40.
Stakes-winning sprinter Fast `N' Rocking is at $4.80 with The Quarterback at $5.50
Under the set weights plus penalties conditions, The Quarterback earned a 2.5kg penalty for his win in the $100,000 race at Sale and has to lump equal topweight of 58.5kg with Fast `N' Rocking.
He has 1.5kg more than Prince Harada and Bull Point.
"We haven't got high expectations on Saturday because he's badly weighted," Griffiths said, adding the gelding would get back from his outside gate.
"He's not a genuine sprinter, he's more a horse aimed at 1600 metres in the Guineas third-up.
"These better-credentialled, higher-rated horses that have good sprint records are probably going to be too sharp for us the way the race is going to be run, but we've got to kick off the preparation."
The Quarterback is a half-brother to the former Mick Kent-trained Group Two winner Philippi, who now races in Hong Kong under the name Vanilla.
Griffiths plans to start The Quarterback in the C S Hayes Stakes (1400m) second-up before the Guineas.