Kenny Rae describes Kaharau, the seven-year-old gelding he co-owns with Mike Harris and Guy Matches, as his family pet.
"He's named after a Maori warrior but he's not a warrior, he's a big softy and I've probably turned him that way," Rae, who trains in partnership with his daughter Krystal Williams-Tuhoro, said.
"I've had him since he was a 2-year-old colt and we've been to Aussie together and we all but got to the Derby with him.
"He's a tough bugger, he ran third over 2100m two weeks before the Derby (Gr.1 New Zealand Derby, 2400m), we were so excited but then he pulled up a bit short and we found out that he had bone chips on his knees, so he had to have them operated on and he missed the Derby.
"Then the Maori guys that used to race him were getting out of racing and they asked me if I could sell him. I said give me 24 hours and don't ask anyone else. We were heading over to the Gold Coast to buy a yearling, but I convinced Mike and Guy to buy him instead and we paid $20,000 for him.
"We took him to the South Island straight away and he ran dead last. Then he came out and won four in a row a month later and now he's won over $250,000."
Kaharau has won 11 and placed in 21 of his 58 career starts and he'll have the opportunity to add to that in the Book Your Xmas Do @ Te Rapa (1600m) open handicap at Te Rapa tomorrow.
It will be Kaharau's first race since the end of January, however he's had two trial appearances, the most recent of which he won, and plenty of jumping to get fit.
"He's been down with Shaun Phelan and Emily Farr getting his jumping ticket so that's why we're running at Te Rapa, it will save on floating costs," Rae said. "He's been up Browne's hill a couple of times and he's had those two trials, so he's as fit as he's going to get first up.
"On equal weights I would probably give him a really good chance but it's hard when he's a 7-year-old against the up and comers and giving them weight."
While Kaharau has been schooling over the jumps Rae said he won't be rushing him to have a hurdle start this year. "We will just see how he goes on the flat but he's probably going to be going out the top weight most of the time," he said.
"I'm hoping to get him back to Ruakaka next month for the open staying races up there and then maybe a hurdle race and I wouldn't mind having another go at the New Zealand Cup (Gr.3, 3200m) if we could, but it all depends on the horse.
"He's either going to have to be really good or no good as a hurdler because I won't be sending him around week after week just for the sake of it."
Rae currently has 18 horses in work at Ruakaka, the majority of which are untried.
"Major Tom is just back in work now, he had a hairline fracture in his pedal bone after the New Zealand Cup, it was a very minor injury, but he's had three months out and he's just started trotting again now. He'll be ready for spring racing," he said.
"Blanco Bay is down with Emily and Shaun getting his jumping ticket too and he'll run at Awapuni next week. Then we have 10 rising 2-year-olds and four yearlings that are untried, so there's light at the end of the rainbow."
The notable absentee on Rae's list is Prom Queen. The multiple stakes-winning mare, who Rae leased from Windsor Park Stud, was sold at the Broodmare sale on the Gold Coast last week fetching A$190,000.
"I actually watched the sale online and it just about brought a tear to my eye," Rae said.
"You don't win eight races with a horse very often, let alone eight of your first nine, and people will say she only won them down South, but it doesn't matter where you win them, any horse that can win six races in a row has got to have a lot of ability.
"They've (Windsor Park) replaced her with her full-sister, she's a rising 2-year-old."
- NZ Racing Desk