There is quiet confidence about Have Faith In Me's return at Addington tomorrow.
Quiet because after winning once in his last 10 starts and burning punters many times along the way, any confidence in the former pacing superstar comes in measured doses.
"We are happy with him and think he can go very close this week," says champion trainer Mark Purdon.
Purdon doesn't get carried away at the best of times but his reluctance to declare Have Faith In Me a great bet in the Avon City Ford Cup at tomorrow's rare Saturday afternoon Addington meeting is understandable.
This time last year Have Faith In Me was the reigning Miracle Mile and Auckland Cup champion and favourite for the New Zealand Cup as well as being openly rated by Purdon one of the best pacers in the world.
While the wheels didn't completely fall off, they went pretty flat and mystery problems, best diagnosed as a kidney complaint, mean we haven't seen the best of Have Faith In Me in 18 months.
Tomorrow looks close to a perfect chance to put his career back on track - Purdon is adamant he is fitter and therefore a better chance than stablemate Dream About Me so the only real threat to him should be Titan Banner.
"Titan Banner has a race start under his belt so he is the danger but Dream About Me I think will take a run or two to get back to her best.
"But Nat [(Rasmussen] has been doing a lot of the work with Have Faith In Me and she says he is in a really good space. And he seems nice and relaxed so his manners shouldn't be a big issue hopefully."
With Purdon's assessment of Dream About Me, who is a bigger, rounder horse than Have Faith In Me, the latter would be a near certainty at his best form but his standing start manners are far from faultless and even the all-conquering All Stars are vulnerable fresh up.
Best example: in this very race last year both Lazarus and Have Faith In Me were beaten by Franco Nelson and a battling Christen Me. So it comes down to price.
At $3 Have Faith In Me is worth the manners and fitness risk but anything at $2.50 or below becomes too short in a race where Titan Banner has a few advantages.
The open class stars aside, Purdon tips debutant Chase Auckland as very hard to beat in race four tomorrow.
"We took 21 horses to Addington for private workouts on Wednesday and he was one we were very happy with," he told the Herald.
Three other open class contenders return at Alexandra Park tonight, with Better B Amazed the possible favourite for race eight even though she isn't off to the NZ Cup like race rivals No Doctor Needed and Hug The Wind.
While Bettor Be Amazed was comprehensive beating the other two last time they clashed, with tonight's race being 1700m mobile field position could be crucial and it wouldn't surprise to see significant improvement from Hug The Wind.
Chase Auckland (Addington tomorrow, R4): Looks the first of the smart All Stars maidens to race this season.
Watch out for: Agincourt (Alex Park tonight, R1): Stable rate him highly and handled mobile start at the workouts.
This time: Hug The Wind (Alex Park, R8): Draw could be a huge help over 1700m and should be fitter than last start.