Stephen Ralph has always considered Thunder Down Under the big ticket horse in his stable.
But the Waikato trainer has had a nightmare run of luck throughout the 3-year-old's season campaign.
Thunder Down Under won the $25,000 R85 at Ellerslie on June 4 and Ralph is hoping for further late season compensation in tomorrow's $30,000 Fell Engineering 1600 at Ruakaka.
The talented 3-year-old has won only two races, but with better fortunes that score could be much higher.
The $100,000 Valachi Downs Championship Stakes at Ellerslie was typical of Thunder Down Under's racing fortunes. Early in the home straight he was the only obvious challenger to eventual winner The Hassler when rider Jonathan Parkes took heed of a track attendant waving his arms over an injured Danielle Johnson lying prone just beyond the winning post.
Parkes eased Thunder Down Under down to the point where the pair forfeited at least second place and a possible win, finishing fifth.
Stephen Ralph has eyes on some big races in the spring and summer, but the horse's physicality means he has to be kept in work through the winter.
"He's an extremely good doer and if we spelled him it would take him forever to get him back. When he came into work as a 2-year-old last June he was 605kg. If you spell that type of horse for too long you risk breaking them down.
"He looks at the grass in a paddock opposite his box and starts getting fat thinking about it." Ralph's idea is to give Thunder Down Under one race a month and he was looking at next week's Tauranga Classic.
"But the long range weather forecast does not look good for next week and I don't want to risk a very heavy track. Ruakaka is the alternative."
Thunder Down Under will have his 11th different jockey tomorrow - Trudy Thornton. "It's been frustrating in that area too. The 54kg range was pretty skinny and Trudy looked the best option."
One of the biggest dangers could be Biologist. Last start at Ellerslie he ran a useful fifth when resuming from a spell and should be much improved. He is very versatile when it comes to track conditions.
This is not your average mid-winter Ruakaka meeting to get horses away from the mud - there are some hugely talented horses on show.
Lewis Caroll faces another smart runner in Shillelagh in Race 6. Also accepted for that race was another high-flier in Koenigsegg One, but it appears he will tackle instead Race 7, in which he will match up against the unbeaten Boa Shan Magic. Both races should be spectacular affairs.
Matthew Gillies is on track to take two ticks off his bucket list at Awapuni tomorrow.
Snodroptwinkletoes should give Gillies his first Manawatu Steeplechase victory after a totally luckless McGregor Grant Steeplechase.
And rising hurdling star Ngairo is equally a big chance in the $50,000 Awapuni Hurdles.
"I'm a Manawatu boy and I've yet to win either of these races and I've always wanted to."
Gillies and Snodroptwinkletoes should have won the McGregor Grant at Ellerslie. They collided with another horse in the approach to the last fence then Gillies' whip nearly disintegrated and the pair were beaten a bare head.
Ngairo has had just three hurdle races and has won the last two, by 7.8 lengths and 16 lengths. He looks a fine chance to make it three from four.
Suited at home:
In Flight, R8, Ruakaka: Freshened since a topline second at Ellerslie against a much lighter weighted sprinter. Has home track advantage.
Tough as they come: Playboy Prince, R4, Ruakaka: Brave when beaten by not much under 60kg at Ellerslie last start. Drops 2kg here.
On the way through: Lewis Caroll, R6 Ruakaka: Has plenty of natural speed and should give them something to chase.