Three generations will again combine when four-year-old gelding Rock On Wood contests today's $50,000 Manawatu ITM Anzac Mile (1600m) at Awapuni.
The handsome galloper has fashioned a tidy record of four wins from eight starts and has only once finished further back than fourth for Levin trainer Leanne Elliot, who part-owns the son of Redwood with her mother Jill, while her son Ryan, the nation's leading apprentice jockey, will again be in the saddle.
"It is going to be his biggest test to date, so we will see how we go," Leanne Elliot said.
"I think we're going to have to go back a bit from the wide draw (15). Hopefully we're not too far off them and we certainly would have liked a better draw."
A former hurdle and high-weight rider, Elliot has been patient with Rock On Wood, with the horse not seen at the races for the best part of 11 months until his resumption in late February with an impressive win at Hawke's Bay.
Rock On Wood subsequently handled the step-up in grade with aplomb when winning over a mile at Awapuni last start and has relished the patient approach.
"I got him in quite early for his four-year-old season and he just wasn't doing that well and he didn't carry a lot of weight, so I put him out for six weeks," Elliot said.
"Then I got him up again and I had him entered for Stratford and he sliced the front of his leg and required a few stitches, so I had to wait for that to heal."
Elliot said that time and maturity were the making of the horse.
It is really great to have Ryan riding Rock On Wood and that is what mum loves too. She is a big part of it all.
"He has strengthened up a whole lot more," she said. "He is quite a quirky horse, but he was a lot quirkier earlier on. He's good at the track but he does sweat up a little bit at the races and that is just him."
There are no longer term plans for the talented four-year-old, with his trainer to be guided by today's stakes race.
"I just want to see how he goes on the dead track before making any further plans," Elliot said.
"I'm quite looking forward to getting him over a bit more ground. I think he will handle it. Earlier on he was good at a mile, but he settles well and I think he should get over further."
Given the trading nature of New Zealand's racing industry, it is little surprise that Rock On Wood has been the subject of numerous overseas offers, but Elliot has been loath to part with the talented galloper, with the family deriving great pleasure from racing him.
"He is the only one we have racing and we are just breaking in a couple at the moment," Elliot said. "We only have a couple in at a time really.
"It is really great to have Ryan riding Rock On Wood and that is what mum loves too. She is a big part of it all. It is her big passion. She loves all of her animals, especially horses, and that is what her life is all about at the moment."
- NZ Racing Desk