The long road back to the top has started for forgotten standardbred Horse of the Year Christen Me.
Although he finished last of just three starters in his comeback trial at Ashburton yesterday, it was enough to put a smile on the face of trainer Cran Dalgety.
Christen Me, the dominant pacer of last season when he won the Miracle Mile, NZ Free-For-All, Victoria, Auckland and Easter Cups, hasn't raced since the spring when a mystery virus saw him lengths below his best.
Dalgety admits he still doesn't exactly know what was wrong with the great pacer but he is at least confident he is now over it.
"He wasn't himself and he would even blow after we worked him, times he could usually jog," said Dalgety.
"So we have given him all the time he needs and he has been a lot better lately. So maybe we are over it now."
Christen Me wasn't asked for anything like his best in yesterday's trial in wintery conditions but his last 50m was impressive, showing at least some of his old speed.
"It was a good return without taxing him and he handled it well."
So much so Dalgety is considering trialling the seven-year-old again next Monday and possibly even starting him in the Rangiora classic on Sunday week.
"That is one option but finding races for him could be tricky."
With the local free-for-all season all but finished, Dalgety is eyeing the Len Smith Mile at Menangle in June, which would mean a clash with Lennytheshark and Beautide, as well as a possible Queensland campaign.
"But before we go haring off to Australia I'd like to win some money here first so it is not that simple," says Dalgety.
Since he was struck down, Christen Me has been replaced at the head of Australasian pacing by first Lennytheshark and then his own close relation Have Faith In Me and Dalgety knows the latter won't be giving that crown back easily.
"He has come out and gone 1:47.5 so we know how good he is. So he is the number one now," he admits.
"But we can only get out horse right and see what happens."
As one open class star returns another's season is over, with Hughie Green confirmed as heading to the spelling paddock.
The Auckland Cup runner-up has had a bone chip remove from his knee after a poor showing at Alexandra Park last Friday and he will miss the Taylor Mile, Messenger and the Jewels on June 4.
With Have Faith In Me also spelling the four-year-old features at Alexandra Park, which start on Friday week, have been left wide open, with Hug The Wind and Field Marshal now the early favourites.
The loss of the top two seeds has increased Australian interest in the four-year-old male pacing division of the Jewels, with former New Zealand pacers My Kiwi Mate and Tact Tate two in contention for an invite to Cambridge, with My Kiwi Mate a chance of coming across earlier.
Northern Oaks winner Piccadilly Princess has been handed a tough draw in Saturday night's A$150,000 Victoria Oaks. An effortless heat winner last Friday, she will start from the outside of the front line this weekend, with Tim Williams to make his Australian driving debut.