A track gallop at Moonee Valley on Tuesday is expected to go a long way toward determining the spring program of Australian Derby winner Ethiopia.
Trainer Pat Carey and jockey Rhys McLeod came away from the workout in the belief that Ethiopia would make his spring debut in the Group Two Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m) with a final decision to be made in consultation with the gelding's owners.
The lightly-raced galloper looked forward in condition before his work with stablemate Ulundi and Carey expects him to have been brought up to the mark with his 1000m spin.
"He's been in work for quite a while and he's been brought along slow and gradual," Carey said.
Ethiopia went home to Western Australia after winning the Randwick autumn feature, returning to Carey's Victorian stable six weeks ago.
While Carey has the horse several notches below peak fitness, he would be ready to run a respectable race on Saturday.
"You'd think there'd be a lot of improvement to come ... and a lot more next season," he said.
"But he's going well enough to handle a mile first-up."
Initial plans are to steer Ethiopia toward the Cox Plate, but connections have taken the precaution of nominating for the Melbourne Cup.
Carey has also entered Ulundi for the Dato Tan and the 1600m open handicap with a further option of running in the Theo Marks Stakes in Sydney should the vagaries of the entry system prevent him from gaining a start in Melbourne.
Already Ulundi has missed a run because he was rated too lowly under the official system, despite being a Listed winner two starts back, and Carey is concerned that it shouldn't happen again.
Like Ethiopia, Ulundi is by the VRC Derby winner Helenus and is owned in the same interests.
The stable will also start the talented staying mare Dame Claire at the Valley on the back of a 20-length barrier trial win at Cranbourne on Monday.
Carey cautiously described the trial as "a good one", saying he expects Dame Claire to improve on two disappointing runs this time in.
Dame Claire runs in the Group Two W H Stocks Stakes (1600m).