A minor setback could prevent WA-owned mare Gondokoro joining stablemate Ethiopia in the $1 million Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington on March 8.
Owner and breeder Trevor Delroy said yesterday Gondokoro injured herself while spelling at his Yallingup property and the four-year-old was a couple of weeks behind in her preparation for the weight-for-age feature.
Delroy purposely bypassed the Melbourne spring with last year's Queensland Oaks winner, believing the decision to sacrifice a Caulfield and Melbourne cups campaign would produce a successful autumn campaign for the mare.
Gondokoro returned to trainer Pat Carey's Mornington stable three weeks ago and is due to have her first start at Caulfield next Saturday, after not having run since backing up from her Oaks win a week later in the Queensland Derby (2400m) on June 8, where she ran fifth to Hawkspur.
"It is coming up three weeks this weekend that she has been back at Pat's," Delroy said. "She did pretty well during her spell.
"Dear Demi and Royal Descent went into the spring and we didn't, so we will soon see if we pulled the right rein.
"For sure she is stronger, but she needs to improve her point-to-point speed to mix it with the best of them.
"She fell over in her paddock and it gave her a tiny setback. We are a week or two behind where we'd like to be.
"The Australian Cup is on the agenda, but she'd need to come up quickly for that. We're not fussed about it because she can go to Sydney for the BMW and the Queen Elizabeth Stakes."
Sydney has ramped up its autumn carnival, with the Group 1 weight-for-age BMW (2400m), run at Rosehill on April 5, to carry prize money of $2.25 million and the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Randwick a fortnight later worth $4 million.
Delroy's 2012 Australian Derby winner Ethiopia, who ran a gallant seventh in last year's Melbourne Cup, and giant stayer Angola are bound for the $350,000 Mornington Cup (2400m) on February 12.
And his lesser light, Durnford, returns to Flemington today to run in the Craftsman Handicap (1720m), after a second in the Listed Lord Stakes (1600m) at Mornington on December 29.
"He is a thin-skinned horse and doesn't like other horses brushing up against him," Delroy said.
"We might even lead on Saturday to get him away from other horses and try to get him into a rhythm."