The man in harness racing's hottest seat should finally start a dramatic new career phase in Group 2 winning fashion at Addington on Friday night.
Hayden Cullen inherited the training of many of New Zealand's best harness horses on New Year's Day, when his former bosses Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen started a sabbatical from training, but with so many superstar horses comes pressure.
Cullen had a luckless start to the new phase of his career (he has trained in partnership before) at Cambridge earlier this month but that was more working with horses at the end of campaigns for Purdon and Rasmussen.
At Addington he starts campaigning horses he and his team have been training for a month and it should be a bright new dawn as he has last-start Auckland Cup winner Amazing Dream in the $50,000 Premier Mares Championship.
"She is ready to go," says Cullen.
"She trialled last week at Rangiora and while it wasn't the strongest trial, she pleased us.
"I know this level of race is never easy to win but she should be good enough to overcome a wide draw."
Cullen says he rings Purdon two or three times a week and Purdon and Rasmussen popped into the stable to drive trackwork. Purdon will drive Amazing Dream.
"They came in and helped out and it was great to have them back," said Cullen.
"And while I expect and hope that can happen around some of the carnivals I realise it won't be all that often.
"So we have to run our own ship now and it seems to be going well."
Cullen says after what should be a winning start to the Addington era of his solo training career tonight things will get more serious in coming weeks.
"I have a couple of horses for next week and the week after we have Self Assured and a few of the big guns ready to go at Addington."
The horse Amazing Dream beat in that December 31 Auckland Cup win, Spankem, returns to the stable this week after spending time on the water walker in the north.
● Although the domestic focus for harness racing will be on Addington, the Kiwi trotter chasing the most lucrative prize will be 3000km away in Melbourne.
Majestic Man is the only New Zealand-trained horse competing at the Night of Glory carnival in Melbourne, with Covid travel restrictions blunting the usual Kiwi attack.
Driver Brad Williamson has gone across to Australia to drive Majestic Man in the A$50,000 Dullard Cup and next Friday's Great Southern Star, which has returned to two $50,000 heats and a $300,000 final on the same night format.
Majestic Man should be able to use his blazing gate speed to lead and gives Williamson a great shot at his first Group 1 driving success.