With a different jockey and riding plan, Adrian Bott has every bit of confidence Surf Dancer will be thereabouts at the finish in The Gong at Kembla Grange on Saturday.
This means the six-year-old's odds of $17 with online bookmakers could offer good value for punters after his gallant fourth – under Regan Bayliss – last start in The Big Dance at Randwick on November 1.
Rachel King has the ride in the $1 million feature over a mile this time, and with different tactics Bott believes his gelding will be tough to beat.
Surf Dancer led The Big Dance at the 300m mark, but the energy he expended getting to that point saw him drop to fourth at the post.
It was still courageous to finish in that position as he was tiring late.
“He ran really well in The Big Dance,” Bott told RacingOnline
“It was probably too high-pressure a race. At a mile he's sharp, but he probably doesn't sustain that high-pressure race.
“He just needs that bit of a breather. So we might look to ride him a little bit differently.
“It wasn't the plan to be leading the other day, and it was certainly a high-pressure race.
“I think he's bounced back from that really well and he'll run really well in The Gong.”
Fellow six-year-old gelding and stablemate Riodini – to be ridden by Tim Clark – is the $5.50 favourite for Bott and co-trainer Gai Waterhouse in The Gong.
“It's a suitable trip back, and the mile will suit.”
It concluded a competitive but winless three-race preparation, which also saw the four-year-old finish runner-up in the Sydney Stakes on October 15.
“Excellent. He was really brave and very honest (in The Hunter),” Bott said.
“I can't ask for much more. I feel like he got all the run that he wanted and was beaten by a better horse on the day.
“It's been a good campaign, and it's been frustrating without having that killer blow this preparation in terms of getting that big win.
“But he's had a few excuses for that, and autumn will be his chance to bounce back and get a big win.”
Meanwhile, Bott said training superstar six-year-old Alligator Blood was “an absolute honour”.
The gelding concluded a very impressive and lengthy six-start preparation with a deserved victory in the Champions Mile at Flemington on November 5.
He also saluted in the Underwood Stakes on September 25, both victories coming at Group 1 level.
“He's been unreal. Fantastic for this stable. Very tough horse and I'm very proud of him,” Bott said.
“(Training Alligator Blood) is an absolute honour. They're hard to come by, those good weight-for-age horses.
“He's one of the toughest and he's thrived under the conditions.
“He's got a big following behind him and he's been able to get back to his best for them.
“Hopefully there's more to come.”