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The Quarterback to make Flemington return

Robbie Griffiths is unsure exactly what to expect from last year’s Newmarket Handicap winner The Quarterback when he begins his spring preparation in the same Flemington sprint he won a year ago.

The Quarterback resumes in Saturday’s Group Two Gilgai Stakes (1200m) for his first start since an autumn campaign which Griffiths described as “a complete write-off”.

And while Griffiths says The Quarterback’s training has been of a high standard, he says the gelding’s trials on unsuitable ground has him guessing as to how well the sprinter is going, and how fit he is.

The trainer said The Quarterback went well when held together to finish fourth in a Cranbourne trial on heavy going last month but said when he tried to give him a more serious test in a private jump-out, the seven-year-old didn’t want to stretch out because of the rain-affected ground.

“I’m going in a little bit unknown as to how he’s actually going,” Griffiths said.

Griffiths said The Quarterback was more forward last year after three trials while he wasl also giving away race fitness to several rivals on Saturday.

“In saying all of that, I’m still very happy with him,” Griffiths said.

“I think if he can run a pleasing race we’re on target for the Manikato Stakes and the Darley Classic.

“It would be nice to try to win first-up like we did last year but I don’t believe I’ve got him as forward in condition just due to the winter tracks I’ve been trialling him on.”

The Quarterback’s forgettable autumn campaign began when he was scratched after playing up in the barriers before the Group One Lightning Stakes.

Griffiths said track bias was then against The Quarterback when 10th in his Newmarket Handicap defence before he pulled up lame in his right hind leg after finishing last in the William Reid Stakes.

“It was a complete write-off so he went back to the paddock to start again. And here we are,” he said.

“If he runs a positive race we’re back in the game for the preparation and that’s all we want to see.”

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