Wise Men Say won last year's Grant Plumbing Wellington Steeplechase (5500m) at Trentham and he will return to the Wellington track tomorrow in a bid to defend his title.
The nine-year-old gelding has only had three starts since and his trainer Raymond Connors is hoping he can recapture some of his old form tomorrow.
"He was definitely going a lot better this time last year. We have probably been a bit slow in getting him going this year," Connors said.
The son of Yamanin Vital tailed the field home in the Hawke's Bay Steeplechase (4800m) last start and Connors is expecting a better performance tomorrow with the added distance.
"He was a bit disappointing last start, he did hit a couple of jumps," he said. "He definitely did hit one at Hastings, which knocked the stuffing out of him.
"He did have a little bit of a big knee after the race and he was sore for a couple of days, but he is definitely right now.
"He normally jumps pretty well, he was jumping well last year. Hopefully he has put it past him now and he'll jump well on Saturday.
"His work has been better the last couple of gallops we have given him. The distance will suit him better (tomorrow), they won't go quite as quick."
Connors is more hopeful than confident heading into tomorrow's contest, but is eyeing bigger spoils with his gelding.
"It's hard to be confident with him after his last two runs, but I'm hoping to see an improved performance looking further down the track and hope to get him to the Great Northern (6400m) or get him down south to the Grand National (5600m)."
Meanwhile, Connors has elected to bypass the Wellington Hurdle (3400m) tomorrow with talented jumper Max.
"There was a thought (of heading to the Wellington Hurdles) but we thought it might be a bit hard on him, so we might just pick a flat race or hurdle race in the next month and then head to Ellerslie," Connors said.
● Consistent galloper Dolcetto is jumping out of his skin ahead of the El Cheapo Cars Whyte Handicap (1600m) at Trentham tomorrow.
The Per Incanto six-year-old was sent to the spelling paddock after his last start victory in the Listed Ag Challenge Stakes (1600m) at Wanganui last month, but he was doing so well trainer Sylvia Kay was forced to bring him back into work.
It was Dolcetto's first win in more than 18 months and Kay was delighted to get the result.
"He has been knocking on the door for a long time. He had terrible draws and everything went wrong through all those good races, which is pretty annoying," she said.
"I was going to put him out for six weeks or so (after his win at Wanganui), but he had three weeks in the paddock and he was going to self-destruct he was that full of himself.
"We brought him back in and he didn't really look any different from when he went to Wanganui. He has had a fair bit of work in the last fortnight and he is really thriving."
Dolcetto will return to handicap conditions tomorrow and he has been allocated 61.5kg, seven kilograms more than any of his rivals.
"It's pretty difficult when you have to carry 61.5kg against 54.5kg, it's quite a weight difference," Kay said.
"I know he's a big, strong horse, but in that sort of going (Heavy11) it makes it hard. But where do you go? There is nothing until the spring.
"He really enjoys the racing. It's a shame there are not a lot of options. We need a few more weight-for-age races."
While Kay is hoping he can add to his nine win tally tomorrow, she said she will keep ticking him over in the next couple of months with an eye towards the Gr.1 Livamol Classic (2040m) at Hastings in October.
"He's a horse that really wants to go over ground. He is definitely going to go 2200m and possibly beyond. I'll possibly have a go at the last day at Hawke's Bay.
Meanwhile, Kay will also line-up in-form geldings Dr Watson and Sylvester in the Vernon & Vazey Truck Parts Parliamentary Handicap (2200m) at Trentham tomorrow.
Sylvester has strung together a series of pleasing results for Kay this winter, with two wins and two placings from his five starts this preparation.
Both of his victories were at Trentham on heavy tracks and Kay is hoping that form will continue tomorrow.
Dr Watson has been in a similar vein of form, beating Comeback on a Heavy11 track at Trentham last month and placing in his two previous runs, including a runner-up performance behind Sylvester at Trentham in May. Kay has elected to utilise the 4 kilogram claim of apprentice jockey Bridie Ansell and is confident he will perform well for the young rider.
- NZ Racing Desk