During the difficult days of COVID, the Rosehill meeting featuring the Group 2 Theo Marks and Run To The Rose was transferred to Kembla Grange, amid the Sydney lockdowns.
It was then, on August 21, 2021, an English 'little bulldog' called Cepheus introduced himself to Australia off the back of two trials with an eye-catching fourth in the 1400m Spring Preview race.
Now Cepheus returns to Kembla Grange today hunting the top prize among the $1 million riches for the Illawarra Mercury The Gong.
Since arriving, he's won the Group 2 Ajax and Shannon Stakes and the $1.5m Alan Brown, as well as most recently chasing Attractable with 62 kilograms on his back in the Big Dance.
With his rating lifted to 111, Cepheus stands as the class runner in the field, but will carry 61kg for his trouble in The Gong.
"It's a stronger race than what he raced last start, but he should run really well as long as he gets the right run," trainer Matthew Dunn said.
"I remember him having his first start (in Australia) down there during the COVID meetings and he liked the track, he was really good that day even if it was a bit short for him. He's been absolutely fantastic this preparation, the race didn't really suit us last start and he was left chasing the winner with the big weight. This was probably the first preparation keeping him as a sprinter and miler, so we'll take him to the Ingham and give him a let-up, we might look into the winter, maybe the Stradbroke (in Queensland)."
Dunn has three red-hot chances on The Gong day, with Tribeca Star jumping from gate one as a $2.5 favourite in the Highway Handicap (race two) and Emperor also leading the betting market ($2.15) in the Benchmark 78 sprint.
The horses travelled down from Murwillumbah on Wednesday, staying at Rosehill before Kembla's biggest day.