Te Horo colt Piaggio was sent back to school at Levin this week and did his best to shed the wild child tag as he attempts to earn a crack at New Zealand's richest race.
The 2-year-old was forced to resit his barrier certificate at the Levin jump-out trials in front of starter Gary Phillips, a requirement after his late-scratching at the barrier at Awapuni on December 21.
Piaggio wandered into the stalls at Levin like a lamb. Not only were his manners on point, he coasted to the line under a strong hold from jockey Lisa Allpress, pleasing his co-trainer Johnno Benner.
Benner, who trains in partnership with Hollie Wynyard, said while the colt was spirited, he felt his late scratching at Awapuni was a harsh call.
"He's a touch hot, but he's no rogue," he said.
"He was a little unsettled in barrier (at Awapuni) and struck out, but there was no blood and he wasn't lame at all. I understand the mishap, but he wasn't vetted fairly," he said.
It was another unfortunate setback for the camp as they seek to accumulate enough stake-earnings to contest the rich $1 million 2-year-old race at Ellerslie on January 25.
It was the second time Piaggio's manners had been brought into question. At Ōtaki in November, as a $1.30 favourite, he bucked off rider Jason Waddell shortly after the start and was ordered to trial before racing again then.
Piaggio was currently 17th on the order of entry for the Karaka Million with career earnings of $7250, which meant he would need bring home a lions share of the stakemoney from the $30,000 William The Protector (1200m) at Trentham tomorrow.
A top-two finish would likely see him qualify for Karaka.
Piaggio had drawn wide at barrier 10 for Trentham, which would give Benner something to think about as he had also entered the horse for the $22,500 2-year-old race at Ellerslie on Sunday, where he had drawn the ace.
Meanwhile, the twilight meeting Ellerslie later this month heralded the beginning of the Karaka yearling sales, which in recent times also included a 3-year-old event.
The race series had been kind to the Benner-Wynyard training team. They had won the 20142-year-old race with Piaggio's sire Vespa, while they had also won the 3-year-old event in 2018 with Scott Base.
Kingsman was also placed third in the 2-year-old race in 2016.