Caspar Fownes has reclaimed his place at the pointy end of the rankings this season and the showman trainer looks set for another big night at his beloved Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
Fownes 40-win campaign in 2015-16 was close to a career-worst for the three-time championship winner but he has bounced back this term.
There hasn’t been the Group race success, yet, but Fownes has firmly re-established himself as part of the much-vaunted “big four” along with John Size, John Moore and Tony Cruz.
His 53 wins have him third behind just Size and Moore and Fownes’ 33 wins at the Valley are the best of any trainer.
In fact, Fownes is within striking distance of his best ever-season at Happy Valley.
With four meetings remaining at the city circuit this term, Fownes is seven short of the career-best 40 he notched there seven years ago, a haul that including a history-making six-timer at a daytime fixture in June 2010.
Fownes sends eight runners to the races on Wednesday, with smart three-year-old Best Step perhaps the best of them, but also a clutch of other chances drawn well on the B course.
Best Step (Zac Purton) is chasing three straight over the course and distance in the Class Three Staunton Handicap (1,200m).
An awkward draw makes matters more difficult but Best Step has won his previous two in the manner of a horse still heading higher.
After a seven-point rise in the ratings, Best Step will need to take another step up to win against a solid and exposed field, but there still should be something in hand at start seven.
The time is right for Clever Spirit to step up in trip and the five-year-old has been granted a perfect draw to boot in the Class Four D’Aguilar Handicap (1,650m).
Clever Spirit’s run-on style has always suggested he would benefit from a longer trip, but the four-year-old lacked the strength when stretched to 1,400m previously.
Now, after some consistent run-on efforts over 1,200m, Clever Spirit tries the extended mile first time.
Barrier two means that Clever Spirit should be given every chance to get the trip and Joao Moreira will be able to sit closer than the horse has previously in sprints.
Also a good indicator that Clever Spirit is gaining the necessary strength is the gelding’s bodyweight, up 24 pounds from last start to a more robust 1,169 pounds.
Bodyweight has also proven to be a key for Fownes’ sprinter Grace Heart (Purton), the light gelding showing more encouraging signs since a last start victory.
Grace Heart benefitted from a break to win first-up over 1,000m, having packed on 25 pounds between runs, and has put on another 11 pounds since then.
The five-year-old was in the top half of Class Three at the start of this season, has won over the trip and still seems attractively rated on 57.
The bonus is the draw, with gate three almost ensuring Grace Heart is given every possible chance in the Class Four Lyndhurst Handicap (1,200m).
Low draws also bring a couple of other Fownes runners into play, with Apache Spirit (Vincent Ho Chak-yiu) and Nice Fandango (Douglas Whyte) looking particularly well-placed.
Perhaps Nice Fandango can be forgiven a last start failure after the three-year-old was burnt up in the early and middle stages in a fast-run straight race.
A switch to the smaller track and gate three look perfect for the speedy type in the second section of the Lyndhurst Handicap.