Finishing last of five in a trial may hardly sound like a perfect step toward New Zealand Cup glory but trainer Cran Dalgety says it is exactly what Christen Me needed.
Dalgety was pleased with the NZ Cup favourite even though the 5-year-old trailed his opponents home at yesterday's Ashburton trial.
Christen Me settled last in the 2400m standing-start trial and was never asked for anything like a serious effort, being allowed to hit the line still in behind his rivals.
They included two-time Cup defending champion Terror To Love, who finished fourth after being asked for only slightly more effort behind winner Pass Them By.
The latter, now trained by Tim Butt after being bought for big money after his Jewels placing in June, sped over the last 800m in 55.3 seconds, the final 400 in 26 to nose out Jimmy Johnstone and Fly Like An Eagle.
Christen Me has been heavily backed to win the Cup after his sensational form last season and yesterday's performance could be seen as a positive rather than a negative.
Dalgety was thrilled with his performance when stepping cleanly from a stand at the workouts at Rangiora on Saturday and said he is so advanced he didn't need a searching run yesterday.
"He is pretty much right where we want him at the moment," said Dalgety.
"He just needs to be kept ticking over now and he will go back to the workouts at Addington next Monday and then race on Friday week."
Dalgety says Christen Me has developed considerably in the off-season and he is certain he will be a better pacer this season.
Even though he has all but been confirmed for a Miracle Mile invite on November 30, Dalgety says the New Zealand Cup remains Christen Me's main aim.
"He is handling the standing starts as good as we could hope for and that was the only thing that would have put us off the Cup."
While sub-55-second 800m sectionals are proving the norm in open-class pacing so far this season, Dalgety is not letting that worry him as he counts down to Christen Me's return in nine days.
"The level has risen for everybody, with tracks getting better and the new sulkies faster," said Dalgety.
"But the bottom line is we still race each other, not the stopwatch and he has paced a 1:50.5 mile after all."
Meanwhile, New Zealand trotters Vulcan and Habibti have been winners in the Australian Harness Horse of the Year awards.
Vulcan, who won five group one races in March including four in Melbourne, was voted Aged Trotter of the Year as well as Overall Trotter of the Year.
And Habibti, who won the NSW Oaks, Victoria Oaks and NSW Derby was voted 3-year-old Trotting Filly of the Year.
Auckland Cup winner I'm Themightyquinn won Horse of the Year for the third time.