Waipukurau farmer Simon Wilson started the racing season off in perfect style at Riccarton last Saturday, recording his first stakes victory as a trainer when Dez took out the Group3 Winter Cup (1600m).
"I was really happy, he tried really hard," Wilson said. "He ran a tough race, Chris [Johnson, jockey] did a great job on him and he ran strongly to the line.
"It's definitely the biggest win of my training career. It was a great thrill to get my first stakes win, it was a thrill for the horse and the group of owners."
The son of Zed will return to the Christchurch track today for the last day of the Grand National Festival of Racing in a bid to defend his title in the Christchurch Casino Winter Classic Handicap (1800m).
Dez beat Platinum Command and Elfee home to win last year's running of the race and he will face them once again today, where he has been installed a $2.50 favourite ahead of Winter Cup runner-up Rosewood at $3.
Wilson has been pleased with Dez since his victory but is wary heading into the weekend with his gelding carrying 59.5kg in the 1800m contest.
"He's done well since Saturday. He's bright and is eating and working well, so that's all I can ask really," he said.
"I was happy with how he went [last Saturday], but it's a totally different race this weekend being 1800m and we have got more weight.
"It's a good field and there are a few talented winter horses on lighter weights. Rosewood is a good horse as well, she's a very tough mare. It will be a tough race and I'm certainly not confident."
Dez will head for a quick freshen-up after today's race and Wilson is eyeing a possible tilt at more black-type targets with the 8-year-old next month.
"He will go home and have a week in the paddock," he said. "I'll possibly look at the Metric Mile [Group 3, 1600m] at Awapuni in September, but we'll get home first and see what happens."
Wilson, who runs a sheep and beef property in Hawke's Bay, is in his ninth season of training.
He came to racing from a showjumping background and said he always wanted to have a crack at training thoroughbreds.
"I am a showjumper really," he said. "My Uncle Harvey and [Aunty] Anne Wilson, and my parents, had a big influence on me with horses. I had ponies from a young age. I just liked horses and have always been interested in the industry. I played around with it a bit on and off over the years."
Wilson had his first start as a trainer in the 2000-01 season before having a decade-long hiatus from the sport. "I was just busy on the farm and with kids and family," he said. "I then had a bit more spare time and I have always wanted to come back to it."
- NZ Racing Desk