Shaun Fannin has set himself a hard act to follow, but he isn't about to let his standards slip, starting with Te Rapa's big jumps double on Saturday.
The 21-year-old distanced his rivals in the 2015-16 race for the jumping jockeys' crown, finishing with 25 winners and nine clear of former title holder Michael Mitchell.
"That was a pretty freakish season for me and I don't like finishing second so I want to win the premiership again and have another good go at the Grand Nationals and the Great Northerns," Fannin said.
He has formed a potent partnership with Kevin Myers and they looked to be within touching distance of an Australian feature this month before a heart-breaking tumble.
Fannin parted company with Slowpoke Rodriguez, who is part-owned by the Whanganui trainer, when challenging at the final fence in the Grand Annual Steeplechase at Warrnambool.
However, Fannin is in pole position for major domestic honours on Saturday with top rides for Myers at Te Rapa.
He will partner the gun fencer Sea King in the Porritt Sand Waikato Hurdles and The Big Opal in the Warren Storm Lifebrokers Waikato Steeplechase.
He is expecting Sea King to show significant improvement after a last-start sixth at Hastings.
"It turned into a bit of a sprint really and he had a big weight [71kg], but he should be spot on for Saturday," Fannin said.
He has similar expectations of The Big Opal, who finished runner-up behind Just Ishi at the Hawke's Bay meeting.
"It was a good hit-out for him and he gave the winner six kilos," he said. "That was his first steeplechase for a while so he will be ready for Saturday as well."
Fannin's more immediate focus will be on today's Otaki meeting where he will ride the Myers pair of Montpelier (Hunting and Fishing Otaki Highweight) and Eddie Gilbert (Riverstone Cafe Highweight).
Both horses finished second at their last starts.
"That was a super run from Montpelier and she should be in the top two at least," he said. "I would be disappointed if Eddie Gilbert doesn't go very close again as well."
Meanwhile, luck has been a stranger to the Hastings filly Savvy Dreams during her Australian venture.
The New Zealand Oaks placegetter was a late scratching from the Australasian Oaks after flipping over before the start and last Saturday she was forced over extra ground from a wide gate when a brave fourth in the South Australian Derby.
"She was three wide without cover all the way and she did a good job to box on in the straight," said Grant Cullen, who trains the daughter of Savabeel with Guy Lowry.
"That was only her second run in nine weeks so hopefully there is still a bit more improvement in her."
With that in mind, Cullen will let Savvy Dreams take her chance in Saturday's group three SA Fillies' Classic at Morphettville.
"I can't fault her condition," Cullen said. "She has come through the race last Saturday very well so she'll go around again.
"If there were any doubts at all she wouldn't be running, but she's 100 per cent. Paul Gatt will be on her again and hopefully our luck changes."
Cullen is also delighted with Savvy Dreams' stablemate Lamborghini, who steps out in his grand final - the Listed Port of Adelaide Cup.
"He's in great order and this has always been his main goal," he said.
"He was great first-up and second-up he just got a bit too far back, but his sectionals were still very good.
"His work since has been excellent. He's on target and Jason Holder will ride him."
Successful in the Wairarapa Cup before his departure, Lamborghini finished runner-up in his Australian debut before a fifth placing this month.
- NZ Racing Desk