Leading jumps jockey Shaun Phelan is on to his third Wellington Hurdles ride in less than a week and he thinks his latest partner may be the best.
Hastings on Thursday will be the surprise venue for both the $75,000 Wellington Hurdles and Steeples after last Saturday's meeting at Trentham was abandoned because of dreadful weather.
Before that happened Phelan was supposed to ride No Tip in the Hurdle had it been run at Trentham but when it was moved to Hastings local trainers Paul Nelson and Corrina McDougal swapped him to No Change but then on Monday his phone rang again.
"They rang me and said that The Cossack was ready to go and with the track improving he might be their best hope so now I am on him," says Phelan.
"So not only has the race changed so much with the transfer from Trentham but so have my chances.
"It is shaping as one of the most competitive hurdle races of the season and I can see them coming to the second last (fence) with plenty of winning chances.
"But I think I am on the right horse now. He has to be one of the best-weighted horses of the whole jumping season because he has won the Great Northern Hurdle last year and the Waikato Hurdles and is only 1kg above the 65kg minimum."
The Cossack was to have been Phelan's ride in the Hawkes Bay Hurdles a few weeks ago but a blood issue close to the race saw him scratched but the fact the astute stable has put him back in today's race suggests he is over that.
The race is a stunner by New Zealand hurdling standards and it may come down to track conditions, with Hastings rated a slow 8 last night but expected to improve for today.
"Track conditions make such a huge difference in jumps racing because some horses love the wet while the others with more speed prefer it drier, which is what we might get tomorrow."
A drier track than what would have prevailed at Trentham could suit Phelan's Steeplechase ride in Mesmerize.
For a small field, there is some real evenness about today's 5500m event, with Yardarm's 22-length win over Shamal in the Hawkes Bay Steeples on July 3 probably the best dress rehearsal for today.
Regardless of how Thursday pans out for Phelan, he has plenty to celebrate after his partner Elen Nicholas's epic day at Avondale yesterday.
She rode three winners to dominate the card after a brutal last year with a shoulder injury and broken.
"Elen has been through a lot but she has really stuck with it so all of us are so proud of what she achieved today (Wednesday) and thrilled for her," says Phelan of the Welsh-born apprentice.
"The only problem is she might show me up. I am not sure I can beat her performance."