Emotions will ride high for Whanganui trainer Evan Rayner this weekend as he prepares for stable stalwart Mr Mor's swansong and as the trainer of sprinter of the year favourite Start Wondering.
Rayner will watch Mr Mor's last-ditch attempt to win the Irvines Great Northern Steeplechase (6400m) at Ellerslie today from Whanganui, where he will saddle Taurus, a contender for the Coro Angel Syndicate 1200.
Then he will fly to Auckland tomorrow with connections of Gr.1 Railway Stakes and Gr.1 NRM Sprint winner Start Wondering for the New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing Awards at the Langham Hotel that evening.
"I'd like to think he's a good chance of winning, but I'm not getting ahead of myself," Rayner said of the champion sprinter category.
Rayner, who trains in partnership with his daughter JJ, revealed the Great Northern was likely to be Mr Mor's final race before retirement, with only a slight chance the Corrupt 13-year-old gelding could contest the steeplechase at Te Aroha on October 1 afterwards.
"It's his last shot at a big one anyway. He's been a great horse for us. He's owned in Hawke's Bay and winning the Hawke's Bay Steeples twice was as good as anything, though the Wellington Steeples win was a bit special," Rayner said.
"He's done everything right going into the Northern, but it's going to be a very heavy, testing track and that might find him out a bit. But it's his last go and he deserves his shot.
"A lot depends on him. He's a horse you've got to keep niggling at. You can't just go for him in the last few furlongs and expect him to pick up and dash home."
The Northern will be Mr Mor's 102nd start, having won 10 races and just shy of $250,000. He has won five of his 30 steeplechases, banking just on $200,000 in that role.
"He was bred and owned by a good mate of mine from our rodeo days, Brian Denton. He died and that's when the syndicate was set up. It's called the Bogga Syndicate because that was what Brian was known as."
Rayner was upbeat about Taurus' chances in the open sprint at Wanganui, where he clashes with the likes of Scapolo, North And South and Mighty Solomon.
"He freshened up nicely after Christchurch and won really well at New Plymouth the other day. He worked really well going into that race and he's worked well again this week so the signs are good. I expect a good run from him."
Stormin Norman is in fine shape ahead of his second crack at the Schweppes Great Northern Hurdle at Ellerslie today.
"He came through his run at Te Aroha last Sunday in great shape and is ready to go for the Northern," trainer John Wheeler said.
"I brought him back from Australia specifically for this race and I think he is in with a shout. He went a beauty in his last race in Aussie and with a better ride would have run in the money. He's tough and if he strikes a loose track on Saturday he will be a chance."
Stormin Norman finished fifth in the 2014 edition of the race before suffering an injury that kept him off the scene for just on 18 months.
He will be ridden by Shaun Fannin.
- NZ Racing Desk