Steven Reid has employed harness racing's biggest gun as he attempts to put the career of glamour pacer Gold Ace back on track.
The Pukekohe trainer will partner his multiple group-one winner with champion reinsman Tony Herlihy in a search for success in the New Zealand Trotting Cup in Christchurch on November 13.
Reid confirmed the move to the Herald last night after Herlihy was booked as the regular driver for Gold Ace, the winner of $787,800 and 14 races.
He replaces injured Cambridge driver Peter Ferguson, who is likely to be sidelined for at least another month after requiring further surgery on a thumb he broke in a trackwork accident last year.
Ferguson, who has already been out of the sulky for five weeks since the July 24 operation, will not drive until at least October, whereas Gold Ace will resume racing before then.
"We explained the situation to Peter and he was very understanding," said Reid.
"We had a great association with Fergy but we are also very happy to get Tony, who I am good mates with and obviously he is a great driver."
While Herlihy is the only New Zealand horseman to partner over 3000 winners domestically, he will be just as happy to get the call from Reid as he has been on very few realistic New Zealand Cup winning chances in the past two decades.
Because most NZ Cups contain only three or four winning chances, whose drivers tend to stick with them throughout their entire careers, Herlihy has had few real shots at the great race he won three times in six years between 1988 and 1993.
Gold Ace has always looked a genuine Cups horse and as a 3-year-old had the better of last season's NZ Cup winner Terror To Love in their numerous battles.
He struggled with bad luck last season, though, and won just three times, including only once in New Zealand.
But Reid is confident he has the 5-year-old stallion back to his best.
"He looks great and has a real strut on at the moment," said Reid.
"So he will go to the trials in two weeks in Auckland but then head to Canterbury to race down there pre-Cup."
Nominations for the Cup close this Friday with the TAB to open its market on Monday.
At this early stage, Auckland Reactor and defending champion Terror To Love are the likely favourites, with plenty of interest in the Australian challenge.
Star Aussie 4-year-olds Sushi Sushi, now trained by Mark Purdon, and Caribbean Blaster will be among the nominations with both expected to start.
That will see them both quoted under the $10 line next week but one horse who won't be joining them is Smoken Up.
The three-times Cup placegetter is staying home in Victoria, with his transtasman travelling days behind him after a defeat by wonderful mare Make Mine Cullen at Melton last Friday.
Stunin Cullen is also sure to be among the NZ Cup favourites in the early markets, even after his disappointing fresh-up fourth at Addington last Friday.By Michael Guerin Email Michael