Trainer John Bary is daring to dream with Callsign Mav after the home-town hero's narrow defence of the $220,000 Tarzino Trophy at Hastings yesterday.
Bary has his eyes set on the A$5 million Cox Plate in Melbourne next month and has even put his money where his mouth is.
"I had a small bet on him at $100 with the TAB just in case we make the trip," said Bary yesterday.
It was the second piece of fresh-up mastery Bary has pulled off with Callsign Mav in the Tarzino, winning the Group 1 last season, also on his seasonal debut but at mammoth odds in 2020.
Yesterday was different, with Callsign Mav the favourite and Bary on track after watching the race from home last season, laid up after a back operation.
With the retirement of glamour mares Avantage and Melody Belle, who he clashed with at the Hawke's Bay carnival last season, Callsign Mav is one of the most proven weight-for-age gallopers in New Zealand, and with the ability to be competitive from 1400m to 2040m, he has a buffet of black-type races laid out on his domestic table.
But Bary wants to shoot for the stars, taking on Zaaki and Verry Elleegant (who won at Randwick yesterday) in the Cox Plate at The Valley next month, a race Bary finished second in with Jimmy Choux in 2011.
Jimmy Choux, Bary's flagship horse, won the last two legs of the Hawke's Bay Triple Crown that season but had the misfortune to run into Mufhasa in the first leg.
"We would love to take him over to Melbourne but he will need to perform well again in the Windsor Park Plate here in a few weeks and then we can decide," said Bary.
The Group 1 was also a triumph for rider Jonathan Riddell, whose weight issues mean he has to fight harder than most to be a competitive flat jockey.
He and Bary worked hard on teaching Callsign Mav to be a racehorse last season, and with the big horse now stronger, more mature and 20kg heavier, his career could be about to go to a new level.
His win was a much-welcome respite for favourite punters in the biggest races on the first day of the carnival, as odds-on pops I Wish I Win and Imperatriz were both beaten, seemingly without excuses, in the 3-year-old features.
The Sir Colin Meads Trophy went to 20-1 outsider Wakari, a son of Vespa who almost died after an illness last season. He looked beatable 200m out but held on.
Bellaconte made the most of a home straight ride from Sarah Macnab to win the $80,000 Gold Trail Stakes for trainer Chrissy Bramby, holding out the slightly luckless Mustang Valley after Imperatriz looked home at the 200m but hit the wall at the 50m mark.
● There was no joy for the Kiwis in Australia with Probabeel fifth in the A$1 million Rupert Clarke at Caulfield, Melbourne.
She wound up late after getting three back on the inner but still looks on track for a Cox Plate tilt. Stablemate Amarelinha finished midfield in the Bill Ritchie in Sydney won by former Kiwi-trained mare Atishu.