THERE were questions over how Heza Slick Joe would return to the racing scene on Wednesday after he ended his previous preparation on a low note.
However, he quashed all doubts with his victory in the Stu Valentine 4 Bloodstock Ins Pace (1,730 metres) at Bathurst Paceway.
Steve Turnbull's Heza Slick Joe ($2.50 joint favourite) was not his usual self in a dismal ninth place finish at Dubbo back in April, but his two recent trial wins suggested he was getting back on track.
Turnbull saw off a late challenge from daughter Amanda, on Ranieri ($2.50), to start Heza Slick Joe's new campaign off in a winning fashion.
"He can really sprint home but I was a bit worried about Amanda's horse because it was pushing me around the turn and I thought I might have been in a bit of trouble," Steve Turnbull said.
"If he relaxes he goes well. We've tried to hold him back in the field a couple of times and he's trailed off but when he relaxes he can run really good times."
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There were no surprises in the early moments of Wednesday's race when the joint favourites surged to the front.
Ranieri found the front early but was quickly headed off by Heza Slick Joe.
It took half a lap for the outside line to catch up to the leaders. Steve Turnbull's Betterthanred eventually settled on the outside of Ranieri.
Isobel Ross started working Betterthanred hard on the turn for home and he wasn't able to keep in touch with the frontrunners.
Ranieri looked poised to make the move for the sprint lane but Amanda Turnbull opted to duck to the outside when the gap presented itself.
Cambo Blaster ($5.50, Emma Turnbull) was finishing strongly along the pegs and Cobbity Conquest ($13, Mat Rue) was making a run from the rear of the field but neither of them were going to interrupt the two horse battle raging in front.
Amanda's horse ... was pushing me around the turn and I thought I might have been in a bit of trouble.Steve Turnbull
Heza Slick Joe responded under the challenge from Rainieri across the final 200m.
Steve Turnbull hardly had to work his runner in the closing strides as he won by three metres.
The winning mile rate was 1:57.9.
Cambo Blaster won the battle for third.