An Ōhau horse and his trainer cut lonely figures on a Horowhenua beach this week.
With foaming sea to their left and a long stretch of forest to their right, it was doubtful anyone was around to hear the thunder of hooves hitting sand as the handsome dark brown beast was given his daily exercise.
Set against the silhouette of the sea, the outline of a horse and rider would make a postcard image, only seagulls noticing the majestic animal go about his work.
Leanne Elliot said her star galloper Rock On Wood loves training at the beach so much she had been out there almost every day ahead of the Group One $200,000 Rydges Wellington Captain Cook Stakes (1600m) at Trentham tomorrow.
"It's just me and him ... he loves it. Then again so do I," she said.
"It's a good surface out there. It's a brilliant beach."
The stretch of grey-sand beach was perfect as a training surface. Elliot liked to vary training between track and the beach. It was also was good for his mental well-being, too.
After exercising at the beach, the 6-year-old gelding went for a splash in the sea before having a roll in warm sand after unsaddling. Then he stands up again, shrugs off the sand with an almighty shake, and sighs as if to say thank you.
That serenity was in stark contract to what could await Rock On Wood tomorrow ... the sound of chatter from the Trentham crowd, the bustle of the stabling area, and the sound of the commentators call is sure to stir his blood.
It's no walk along the beach. It's game on.
If ever there was a horse that deserved to add an elite race like tomorrow's Captain Cook Stakes on his curriculum vitae, it was Rock On Wood. Consistent performances in recent seasons meant the 6-year-old now commanded town hall company.
Against Rock On Wood's chances this weekend is the weather with a heavy track likely for Trentham. He had never won on anything worse than a dead track, though class would take him along way.
Elliot, who has handled the son of Redwood patiently throughout his career, spacing his races and his rise in class, said she would have no qualms about scratching the horse tomorrow.
And with patience that was a hallmark of Rock On Wood's career, Elliot said she would look to Kamada Park Challenge Stake (1400m) at Awapuni in a fortnight if track conditions deteriorated really badly and forced a withdrawal on Saturday.
She was hopeful for wind and a bit of sunshine to bring the surface back to something a little more suitable.
"We'll just have to wait and see," she said.
Meanwhile, Elliot said Rock On Wood had come back a strong and more mature horse this campaign.
"He's well. He's worked well," she said.
Having matured during a spell from racing through the winter, the son of Redwood finished runner-up to Hypnos in the Gr.3 Red Badge Spring Sprint (1400m) at Hastings fresh-up two months ago.
Hypnos had since made the form look strong as he went on to win the Gr.2 Coupland's Bakeries Mile (1600m) last month.
At his last start Rock On Wood did enough carrying 61.5kg to win an Open 1400m Handicap at Awapuni, giving weight and a beating to handy gallopers Shadows Cast and Weaponry.
Rock On Wood now seems well placed at weight-for-age. He will meet tomorrow's race-rival Hypnos 4.5kg better off than when they last met, Shadows Cast at 3.5kg the better, and Times Ticking at 7kg less.
Another Group One assignment on the horizon this season would be the Group One Thorndon Mile in Trentham in January, a race he was desperately unlucky not to win last year, finishing a courageous fourth after being denied racing room for much of the home straight.
He was also unlucky not to finish closer than third in the Group One Herbie Dyke Stakes last season too, going down by less than a length to winner Tiptronic, again denied clear galloping room in the home straight.
But they don't hand Group One races out in the mail. The annals of New Zealand racing are littered with fines horses that, but for bad luck and circumstance, were never able to add a Group One trophy to the cabinet.
Meanwhile, there was never any need to chase up a jockey for the ride on Rock On Wood. He would again be ridden on Saturday by Ryan Elliot, her eldest son.
Ryan Elliot had ridden Rock On Wood in all but one of his 16 starts, and had been aboard in all his seven career wins, also carding two second and two thirds. He had won $216,300 in prizemoney.
R1: Wild Moose, Invisible Spirit, Basarwa.
R2: Dolcetto, Justaskme, Deerfield.
R3: Princess Amelie, Colorado Star, Chosen Peak.
R4: High Quality, Gorbachev, Master Finn.
R5: Stormy, Brazen Blue, Taoiseach.
R6: Whatsup, Mozzie, Wholetthefoxout.
R7: Belle Plaisir, Gerda, Heiloom.
R8: Rock On Wood, Aimees Jewel, Hypnos.
R9: The Grinder, Cetus, Steptoe.