Most people need an incentive to get out of bed on a cold winter's morning, and for Te Aroha trainer Peter Lock, it has been the return of his star galloper Hiflyer.
The Group 1 performer hasn't been sighted on raceday since 2019 after sustaining a tendon injury, and Lock has taken a long and cautious approach with his return.
"He banged a tendon and we scanned it, and it needed a three-month break," Lock said. "It wasn't serious, but we gave him six months and we put him back into work and it had a little bit of heat in it.
"I decided he had been too good a horse to me for something to go wrong, so I put him out again. The vet said we could press on, but I didn't want to, so he had another 12 months in the paddock.
"I just kept him at the stables and at my spelling block, and he was tearing around like a 2-year-old, so we got it scanned again and we can't find any problems.''
Lock has been pleased with the rising 9-year-old's progress and was buoyed by his first public hit-out at Matamata last week, albeit on an unfavourable heavy track.
"He went to the Matamata jumpouts last Thursday and had a nice hit-out.
"Sam Collett [jockey] got off him and was over the moon with him. He didn't handle the heavy track and that will be the only thing stopping him from heading to the Foxbridge Plate [Group 2, 1200m]."
While heavy track conditions may delay Hiflyer's resumption, Lock is eager to return to Hastings in the spring where he is hoping his charge can improve on his runner-up result behind Melody Belle in the Group 1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) three years ago.
"It is looking like it [track] will be that way [heavy], so we will have to come up with a Plan B [for his resuming run]," Lock said. "But hopefully we can target the three races at Hawke's Bay."
Lock would like to head to Trentham in January where he is looking to redeem a decision he believes cost his horse Group 1 glory in the Thorndon Mile in 2018.
"The big one we are aiming for is the Thorndon Mile," Lock said.
"Johnathan Parkes [jockey] said 'put the blinkers will win it'.
"I was reluctant to put them on for the first time heading into a Group 1 race and I was kicking myself after because he hit the front and started gawking around. I knew I had pulled the wrong rein, but that is racing, and you have got to take it on the chin."
- NZ Racing Desk