Horses are horses, but trying to stay aboard a bucking bronco and group one sprinting somehow don't sit well together.

Unless you are Evan Rayner.

The former international champion rodeo rider, along with daughter JJ, came close to an impossible treble when Start Wondering took Saturday's $200,000 NRM Sprint at Te Rapa.

In three visits to the races, Start Wondering took Ellerslie's group one Railway, was beaten the barest of noses in the Telegraph at Trentham and added another group one on Saturday.


Evan Rayner, although doubtless excited, seemed almost emotionless as he waited for Start Wondering and Johnathan Parkes to come back to the weigh-in, but when you've risked your life 1000 times on broncos, a mere horse race is probably just part of working life.

The magnitude of what Rayner and his daughter had achieved seemed lost, but the Whanganui trainer's staunch exterior masked the pride and emotion being felt.

The bulldog fight Start Wondering produced in the home straight to win narrowly proved that the treble should have been achieved. He was left in front on his own at Trentham and southerner Signify grabbed him so fast in the closing strides Start Wondering did not have the time to fight back.

"Yes, I believe if he'd had time to see the other horse he'd probably have outgunned him," said Parkes.

Saturday's finish looked dramatic and exciting, and despite the close margins Parkes was never concerned. "Once I got him into the clear he was never going to be beaten. From his good draw I knew I had to put the pressure on the others, so I did."

Winning these top sprints puts Start Wondering into an almost impossible position in the handicaps and overseas might beckon, although Rayner is slightly less than excited about that prospect.

Start Wondering was second favourite behind Kawi, who was less than settled in his pre-race behaviour.

He dropped rider Michael Walker in the birdcage and came close to doing it again after first stepping out on the track. He didn't jump from the barriers with the same enthusiasm and was a clear last on settling. With the 1400m being run in a lightning 1.21.22 Kawi's race was virtually over in the first 100m, but he did make ground nicely into a close up fifth.

When a horse has won you $1.2 million, each subsequent victory might seem almost like an anti-climax.

Volkstok'n'barrell (red cap) is too good for Savile Row in the $400,000 Herbie Dyke Stakes at Te Rapa on Saturday. Photo / Trish Dunell
Volkstok'n'barrell (red cap) is too good for Savile Row in the $400,000 Herbie Dyke Stakes at Te Rapa on Saturday. Photo / Trish Dunell

Not so Volkstok'n'barrell's win in the $400,000 Herbie Dyke Stakes on Saturday.

The scene was close to what you see after Melbourne Cups and we are talking here about, not first timers, experienced hands like Donna Logan, training partner and part owner Chris Gibbs, his father Jim Gibbs, Garry Cossey, form analyst and James McDonald's former manager, Ash Goodwin etc.

The reason was what the syndicate have been through. There have been issues along the way and although no one was letting on in the post-race excitement, there had been doubts of the millionaire coming back to his former brilliant best.

It may not have been obvious to many, but the preparation of Volkstok'n'barrell was masterly. There is no better eye than that of Jim Gibbs who was delighted minutes before the race.

"That's the best I've seen him look," he said simply. "He is right in the zone," said the former champion conditioner.

Gibbs was even happier afterwards. "You know, that's my 99th winner [as an owner] at the gallops and the trots since I retired from training and I'm sure 10 of them have been group ones."

Vinnie Colgan played a major part in the win.

He positioned Volkstok'n'barrell beautifully and produced him at the right time.

Savile Row was brave in finishing second and Mr reliable, Authentic Paddy, put in again for another minor placing.