JOHN BARY will be the first to admit it's great to be a Kiwi in Australia this week, thanks to the All Blacks.
All the Hastings trainer needs now is for his champion horse, Jimmy Choux, to win the $3.8 million Tatts Cox Plate in Melbourne this afternoon to set the tone for the ABs to claim the Rugby World Cup bragging rights tomorrow night to cap off a magical week.
Eclipsing the black machine's success is out of the question but the Hastings trainer has enjoyed riding in tandem in the saddle of success with the country's elite rugby team who are on the cusp of reliving the glory days of 1987.
"It'll be huge if we win the Cox Plate," Bary says from Melbourne before the 4-year-old Thorn Park colt lines up at Moonee Valley to complete a stellar season which found traction at the Rush Munro's Hawke's Bay Spring Racing Carnival in Hastings last month.
"If the All Blacks pull it off, it'll be about the same time between wins for New Zealand as Bonecrusher," the 41-year-old says of the champion horse who won the Cox Plate in 1986. The ABs are in the hunt for the country's second World Cup title in 24 years after they won the inaugural one in Auckland in 1987.
While the Graham Henry-coached ABs, with Hawke's Bay Magpies fullback Israel Dagg in the line-up and winger Zac Guildford in the squad, remain firm favourites for the 9pm final tomorrow at Eden Park, Jimmy Choux has slipped to second favourite, behind 3-year-old Helmet in the 2040m race at 7.30pm (NZ time).
"The ABs are in a no-win situation. We're [the racing industry] in a different game so you can have longshots winning and champions beaten to the line so I suppose we can only worry about what we can control," Bary says before Australasia's richest weight-for-age race.
He drew barrier 10 for Jimmy Choux, the reigning New Zealand and Hawke's Bay Horse of the Year, which is far from the ideal No6 barrier he was hoping for but it doesn't worry Bary in the least.
"Some are wider than us and favourite Helmet is 11," he says, adding Bonecrusher was in barrier 10 when he won the Cox Plate 25 years ago.
Ditto the decline in the Richard and Liz Wood-owned Jimmy Choux's odds with the bookies.
"Favouritism doesn't account for anything in races like this. All I worry about is my horse.
"The media and punters are all but sideshows."
With a few showers late this week, Bary is hoping Moonee Valley will not serve up temperatures of 28C-29C today.
"They have been irrigating the track but it'd be nicer if the heat is around 20C," he says, mindful the race will be at 5.30pm (Melbourne time) so, consequently, it'll be cooler.
Jockey Jonathan Riddell, a former Napier Boys' High School pupil living in Palmerston North, is "very relaxed and laidback" although his mood, like most weight-shedding jockeys, can change closer to race time.
"He's spoken to a couple of other jockeys here so he's not fazed. It'll be a walk in the park for him," says Bary of Riddell who will be up against an elite group of former Cox Plate-winning jockeys such as Damien Oliver, riding Glass Harmonium, who guided Dane Ripper (1997) and Northerly (2001) to victory.
He acknowledges it's a "boring" declaration but Jimmy Choux is "super well".
"He's as good as I've ever had him going into a race," he said.
Jimmy Choux left the Bay for Melbourne with strapper Sue Hall the week after winning the final group one race of the spring carnival trilogy here on October 1.
He put down the horse's shortcomings in Tuesday's Breakfast with the Best track session at Moonee Valley as "just a cock-up" after Rekindled Interest beat him over 1200m.
"It's no one's fault but mine. Jimmy Choux works better on his own," Bary says, adding the idea of using a pacemaker for both horses didn't follow the script.
Jockey Riddell refrained from trying to put Jimmy Choux under any duress to prove a point but on Thursday the Bay combination had a workout at Flemington.
Bary, fellow trainer Frank Ritchie and Bonecrusher's rider, Gary Stewart, walked the Valley home straight on Thursday.