Gailo Chop (Image: Racing Photos)
Matthew Williams first knew Gailo Chop was firmly on the road to recovery when the veteran's action was smooth and free when he worked him down on the beach at Warrnambool earlier this month.
His opinion was confirmed a short time later when the former French horse tried to dump him on the sand.
The Northern Hemisphere-bred Gailo Chop will be nine years old when he reappears in the spring in Melbourne. His form will read well - a last-start second to Winx in the 2018 Queen Elizabeth Stakes - as will his overall record of three Group 1 victories among 13 wins and more than $4.1 million in stakes.
But, for the horse's connections, it is not so much about the past as they already know he's a class galloper. It's about whether the tendon injury has healed and whether the horse still wants to compete.
Williams, who is the horse's new trainer, is confident on both fronts.
"He's always been a little bit of a horse - we've seen a bit of him at the beach when Darren (Weir) had him - and it wasn‘t uncommon for him to drop a rider now and then and he's got that about him," Williams said on Friday.
"He doesn't feel like an old horse to ride. There's still a bit of spark about him so we're confident that he's still got it there.
"You are dealing with tendons so it's always a day-to-day proposition, but he certainly looks good at the moment and he's sound and well."
Gailo Chop has had a long rehabilitation from his second tendon injury and Williams said the signs were as promising as they could be.
"His tendon scanned up really good about 10 days ago so he's ready to take the next step," he said.
"He's been in work for quite a few months now. He's done quite a bit of treadmill work early and water walker work and some trotting and cantering at the beach.
"He's on a treadmill program to keep him nice and sound and get him ready for a Cox Plate.
"We'll get him up to the stage where he's ready to go to the track and probably have two or three nice course-proper gallops and then a couple of nice jumpouts and then, all being well, he'll kick off in the Makybe Diva (Stakes).
"The plan could be the Makybe Diva, the Underwood and into the Cox Plate."
Williams reported that the budding star of his team - the unbeaten Harbour Views - has gone for a spell and would return for a spring campaign that was likely to culminate in an attempt on the Ballarat Cup in mid-November.