HERE Comes Joe, the sensational prospect who had to be scratched from the group 1 Ladbrokes National Derby in January after being bitten by a spider, makes his keenly anticipated return to racing at Bulli on Saturday night.
Here Comes Joe easily defeated Oh Mickey in a WP Derby heat on January 17 but when the spider bite ruled him out of the final, that greyhound replaced him in box one and took out the $75,000 first prizemoney.
Norm Estephan, whose father Joe trains Here Comes Joe, said: "He was a very sick dog after the bite, so sick that we almost lost him.
"It has been a slow process getting Here Comes Joe back to the track and so far he is not trialling as well as he was when he was at his peak.
"But this Bulli race should tell us whether he is going to come back to top form.''
Here Comes Joe has box six in Saturday's 472m Ladbrokes Odds Boost Stakes, with the Danielle Matic trained juvenile Maldini, in box one, looking his toughest opponent.
Maldini, who is just 20 months old, was most impressive on debut at Bulli last Saturday, coming from third early to hit the front at the first turn before winning by four lengths in a quick 22.50 for the 400m.
Maldini has an additional 72m to handle on Saturday but went to the line powerfully last week and is expected to be able to cope with the longer trip.
Trainer Darryl Thomas, whose boom youngster Whitfield makes his Bulli debut in Saturday's 11th race, a 400m fifth grade, believes Maldini's kennelmate Poppy Jack could be his dog's main rival.
Whitfield will be favourite from box seven and Thomas said his greyhound is well drawn.
"The wide alley will suit him as he won from box seven in a flying 22.04 over 400m at Maitland at his first start on March 19,'' Thomas said.
"Whitfield is a very quick young dog but has not seen the Bulli track.
"And the field is not weak, with Wanda Maximoff having had three wins and a second from four starts while Poppy Jack clocked 22.16 winning over 400m at Bulli in January.
"That sizzling time by Poppy Jack means my dog cannot afford to put a foot wrong on Saturday.''
Poppy Jack had box four when he led throughout in 22.16 and like Whitfield, he looks well drawn out wide on Saturday.
Poppy Jack seems ideally positioned in box eight as he has been inclined to use a bit of the track in winning at two of his three Bulli appearances.
Saturday's Bulli card is equivalent to a metropolitan class fixture, with Paws Of Thunder winner King Cratos in box eight in a 472m Free-For-All and his kennelmate Zipping Sultan chasing his sixth win in seven starts in race eight, a fourth and fifth grade over 472m.
King Cratos, who is unbeaten in three Bulli races, will be all the rage after drawing box eight, the trap he had when he downed Feral Franky in the group 1 Paws Of Thunder at WP on January 24.
Zipping Sultan faces stern opposition from Latrell To Excel, who staged an outstanding performance to win over 388m at Gosford on Tuesday night.
Latrell To Excel, who has box two at Bulli, was fifth early and a distant second on the home turn before roaring home to win in the fair time of 22.41sec at Gosford.
He will relish the step up to 472m on Saturday and is partial to the Bulli 472m course, where he has won two from four assignments.
Best Bet King Cratos (race 6)
Best Value Latrell To Excel (race 8)
Quaddie race 5 - 3, 1
Race 6 - 8, 4, 5
Race 7 - 3, 6
Race 8 - 2, 8, 7
$20 for 55.55%