A spring campaign that began with extreme caution will conclude on a more adventurous note for Exceptionally at Ballarat on Sunday.
Trainer Terry O'Sullivan says he is pleasantly surprised at how well Exceptionally has come through her most recent run, the sixth of her preparation, and will run the mare in the $200,000 Ballarat Cup (2200m).
The quick back-up from last weekend's second to Tanby in the Zipping Classic (2400m) at Sandown is a reflection of Exceptionally's resilience and is also a credit to her trainer's skills.
Earlier in the season O'Sullivan controversially scratched Exceptionally from a race at Flemington after arguing the track was considerably firmer than the official reading and the mare would endanger herself by running on it.
O'Sullivan still managed Exceptionally's campaign well enough to produce her at her best at Sandown and is confident she has held onto her form for her Ballarat assignment.
"They've promised me at Ballarat that they'll be putting plenty of water on the track and they've left the grass long, so she should be alright," O'Sullivan said.
"It is a bit of an afterthought to run her at Ballarat, but it's worth $200,000 and it's not far from home, so we're having one last throw at the stumps."
O'Sullivan's greatest concern is the drop back to 2200m at Ballarat, but he's restricted the mare to light work this week and a breeze-up on Saturday morning to keep her fresh.
In her six runs this time in Exceptionally has been unplaced only once - in the farcically-run Geelong Cup.
As well as her last-start second, she finished third in the Naturalism, the Herbert Power and the Lexus Stakes.
Exceptionally is a $4 second favourite for the Ballarat feature with in-form Sertorious heading the betting at $3.20.