Franco Nelson's first 2600m in last week's Maurice Holmes Vase was good, but it was his effort after the line which impressed his driver.
The 7-year-old finished third behind Locharburn and Tiger Tara in the Vase, which tracks as great form for tomorrow's $25,000 Hannon Memorial in Oamaru.
Franco Nelson found a gap up the markers, and chased down the two leaders to within three lengths by the time he reached the finishing post at Addington. However, the injury-plagued pacer was actually past the two leaders 200m after the line, which surprised and pleased driver and unofficial trainer John Dunn.
"He hadn't done that for a long time," Dunn said.
"He normally hits the line and pulls up, so to speak, so it was the best he's hit the line for a long time.
"I got a wee check at the 400m and got held up badly, so the ground he made up on those quick sectionals were good, too."
There is no Locharburn this week but Tiger Tara opened a deserved $1.70 favourite for tomorrow. He and Franco Nelson ($4.80) should have the fitness and class edge on most of their rivals. Grand Circuit performer Mossdale Conner ($7) and two-time Hannon Memorial winner Franco Ledger ($9.50) are sure to take plenty from tomorrow's run.
Franco Nelson's manners are generally great, giving Dunn the option of putting him into the race then taking cover. "The key is to step quick again, and try and get in front a few of them from the get-go," he said.
A bone chip was removed from one of Franco Nelson's fetlocks after the Easter Cup and he wonders if that might have made a difference.
"He's a happy and sound horse now, so it might have been bothering him longer than we thought."
Dunn has been putting a steady diet of work into Franco Nelson to prepare for this season, although he wasn't sure what to expect last week.
"He's had a long slow build-up, so he was definitely forward enough," he said. "He trialled well in his first trial for us, then a week later we took him back again and he went very ordinary behind Locharburn.
"So we stepped the work back up to him and it worked the other night."