Chris Faulkner experienced the thrill of winning a major race 31 years ago, but this time he hopes it will happen when he is on course.
Faulkner is the Pukekohe owner-trainer of Notabadrooster, who looked set to win last Saturday's Koral Steeplechase (4250m) at Riccarton when clear in front going into the last fence, but fell when landing awkwardly over that obstacle, leaving Amanood Lad to go on and win.
Notabadrooster will be looking for a change of fortune in today's Racecourse Hotel & Motor Lodge Grand National Steeplechase (5600m) at Riccarton and such a win would certainly be a long-time overdue for Faulkner.
Faulkner is a drainage contractor, but has had a long link with racing back to the days training in partnership with Cliff Fenwick at Takanini.
"I was in partnership with Cliff when Lord Reims won the Caulfield Cup, but I wasn't on course that day," Faulkner said. "In those times partnerships weren't recognised in Australia and Cliff was over there with Lord Reims and I went down to Trentham for the Wellesley Stakes with Beau Bayou."
Although Beau Bayou finished third in that 1987 Listed Wellesley Stakes (1000m), there was plenty to celebrate over Lord Reims' group one Caulfield Cup (2400m) victory.
Faulkner was also in partnership with Fenwick when Lord Reims won one of his three successive group one Adelaide Cups (3200m) and later his wife, Yvonne, became Fenwick's training partner.
Notabadrooster, a son of Thano, began his career with Craig Phelan and won three races on the flat, but underwent an operation last year for the removal of a bone chip and since then he has remained with Faulkner.
"He's better suited working on the beach rather than the track and he's not the nicest horse to handle," Faulkner said. "He was always going to be a chaser and Shaun [Phelan], Emily [Farr] and Will [Gordon] did all the work on him."
It was a big call from Faulkner to target the Koral and Grand National Steeplechases on the strength of just two steeplechase starts, but Notabadrooster proved his worth last Saturday, despite the last-fence mishap. It hasn't been easy for Faulkner getting over such a near-victory in the Koral.
"It's taken me a week to get over it. Everyone keeps coming up and reminding me how unlucky we were," Faulkner said. "But the horse is well and that's the main thing. In fact he has worked better this week than he did the week before."
Notabadrooster has undergone a couple of veterinary checks this week and has been declared fit to take his place with Gordon the wiser and ready to atone in the Grand National.
"I'm not worried about him getting the extra distance this week."
- NZ Racing Desk