The temperatures might have been below average but Johnathan Parkes has still had a sizzling summer.
The Whanganui rider has won more stakes races this term than any other rider in New Zealand. His nine black type victories include seven group races, with the bulk of his feature wins coming over the summer, including two this month.
His big race haul includes two group one races on crack sprinter Start Wondering and the partnership will seek a third group one triumph at Otaki on Saturday.
Parkes has won the Railway and NRM Sprint on Start Wondering, as well as a listed sprint at Te Rapa, and his other major wins have included the Avondale Guineas, Eight Carat Classic, City Of Auckland Cup, Eulogy Stakes, Thompson Handicap and Marton Cup.
He is also in third place on the premiership, with 50 wins, 15 behind premiership leader Danielle Johnson, but has a relaxed view about his chances of winning a premiership.
"I've run second before, behind Matt Cameron [in the 2013-14 season] but I've never really been stressed about winning a premiership," Parkes said. "I've really got to watch my weight and riding every day of the week takes a toll on you.
"I would prefer to focus on winning big races.
"I've been lucky this season because I've got on some very good horses, with the likes of Start Wondering, Volpe Veloce, St Jean and Gingernuts. You still have to get the job done but it helps when you ride decent horses."
Start Wondering and Kawi are the headline acts in the weight-for-age Haunui Farm Classic (1600m) at Otaki on Saturday.
Start Wondering has excelled as a sprinter this season but is no novice over 1600m. He did most of his early racing over 1600m and did not have his first start at 1200m till he was transferred to Sydney trainer Chris Waller, in his five-year-old season.
His maiden win came over 1600m and has won three races at the distance, including an easy win in rating 75 company on a premier day at Trentham He also won over 1500m at Rosehill when with Waller.
He was just a nose away from completing a Group I treble comprising the Railway (1200m), Telegraph (1200m) and NRM (1400m) this year and his brave last-start win in the NRM at Te Rapa suggested he would cope with another 200m.
"He dug in pretty well over the last 100m at Te Rapa," Parkes said
Start Wondering finished four places ahead of Kawi at Te Rapa but the latter still opened as a $2.20 favourite for the Haunui, with Start Wondering at $3.20 and Sofia Rosa, who was seventh at Te Rapa when resuming, at $5.50.
Kawi, who won the first two legs of the Hastings triple crown in the spring, was having his first run for more than two months at Te Rapa, following three races in Perth.
He has a good record when fresh, and over 1400m, but missed the kick at Te Rapa and did well to get within 1.7 lengths of Start Wondering, after running his final 600m in 33.56.
"I went to Te Rapa thinking that he could win with the right run but his winning chances were gone after 50 metres," Kawi's trainer, Allan Sharrock said. "He ran the quickest last 600m but he was never going to pick them up around Te Rapa.
"But Start Wondering will be hard to beat again."
However, Sharrock is confident Kawi, who has won five group one races, will be suited by the step up to 1600m on Saturday and that his stable star has improved with his Te Rapa race.
"We are very happy with him. His work on Tuesday morning was probably the best I've seen from him this prep and he looks to have improved physically."
Kawi will have a new rider this weekend, with comeback jockey Jason Waddell getting a chance to record an early group one win. "He's a class rider," Sharrock said.
Jonathan Riddell had first refusal on the Kawi ride but decided to stay loyal to his regular mount Mighty Solomon.
Haunui Farm Classic
1600m WFA $200,000
14645 Kawi (2)
19121 Start Wondering (1)
59 Johnathan Parkes
23273 Authentic Paddy (5)
10241 Maybe Miami (6)
79x00 Iamishwara (9)
6x369 Mighty Solomon (3)
26x30 Watch This Space (7)
59 Lisa Allpress
15752 Prince Of Passion (8)
090x7 Sofia Rosa (4)
57 Danielle Johnson