Gary Portelli spent 12 years training horses at Orange and can't think of a happier homecoming than an Gold Cup breakthrough on Friday.
The multiple group 1 winner is now based out of Warwick Farm but will bring a convoy of prospects to Towac Park for the track's richest race meet of the calendar.
Lord Tropicana is Portelli's only Cup hope as the $13 shot will look to bring him a second win in this race, the last one coming in 2002 through grey filly Kalalycia.
And even though it's been a long time between drinks for the mentor, he's quietly confidence the four-year-old gelding can raise a few eyebrows.
"He's definitely a work-in-progress but I thought his last race was a lot better than it looked on paper," Portelli said.
"The blinkers go on for the first time and I think he's been looking for these.
We haven't seen the best of this horse yet.Gary Portelli.
"We haven't seen the best of this horse yet."
He's won a Golden Slipper and a Manikato Stakes, but he still holds that 2002 Gold Cup win close to his heart.
"It was a really good day and a great experience overall," he said.
"It would be good to get one back at Orange after I spent 12 years there."
It looks a comfy draw for Lord Tropicana as he'll leave from barrier two with Blake Spriggs on board.
"Blake's been riding really well for us," he said.
"He won at Orange a few weeks ago on She Loves Rubies and he also rides a bit of track work for us.
"He certainly knows how to get around a longer distance."
According to Portelli, the only thing that's preventing the gelding from being a single-digit shot is its attitude, suggesting he's a bit inconsistent on race day.
Something that works in Lord Tropicana's favour is the distance as he looks to be one of the only genuine stayers in the field.
Shorter-priced chances such as Renalot $5 and Dylan's Romance $4.80 - while in good touch - don't have runs on the board over this type of distance.
Portelli has five chances in total on Friday, starting with the fancied She Loves Rubies ($2.50) in the $30,000 Mcsigns Silver Apple two-year-old Showcase Handicap (1000m).
The filly left them standing still at this very track on March 21 and has been well backed since the odds were released on Wednesday night.
"She's a pretty smart horse and she's definitely better for the experience she got last time out," he said.
"She's probably my best chance of the day."
Abrogation ($3.80) and She'll Be Apples ($4.60) are next on deck for Portelli as they'll race in the second. Rockover ($6.50) will close out Portelli's involvement in race six.
Orange-based trainers Alison Smith and Maree Hopkins will be watching with keen interest on Friday as well.
Smith has How's It Kev ($51) and I'll Tell You Miss ($21) going around in race four, while Absolute Ripper ($31) and Panuara ($126) will compete in the last.
Flying Honour will do battle in race six for Hopkins.
The first race is 12.55pm.
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