A very quiet season for horse and trainer received a significant boost when Max Phactor took out the $14,000 Hawera Cup on Monday in the hands of Phil Butcher.
The Mike Berger-trained five year old backed up his day one victory with a photo finish win over Black Chevron and Razor Brogden in a thrilling finale to the two-day meeting.
It was almost 11 months since Max Phactor, twice placed fourth in Group One races, won the last of his previous seven wins.
Berger says his charge has been a glaring victim of the new handicapping system and he very nearly didn't go to the meeting with his whole team when he was told the horse couldn't race on day one with a junior driver concession.
"The race on the first day wasn't going to get off the ground so I tried to put him in with a junior concession but the handicapper said no.
"Eventually after a discussion with Club Secretary Carey Hobbs he relented. Both him and Lusty Mac have been slaughtered from when they brought the system in, he had to go straight in to racing open class horses ... that's part of the reason he hadn't won a race for near on a year."
Berger is now wondering where to go with him beyond a race in June.
"He ran third in the Uncut Gems ($40,000) race at Addington after the Jewels last year and I think it's at Auckland this season.
"So, we'll give him a wee break and set him for that, but after that, I don't know.
"I'm pondering what to do with him, really — we might have to sell him or send him to Aussie. There's not much point running around getting beaten for another six months."
Berger had only six wins in the bank for the season before his Hawera double and says it's just a case of not having the firepower of recent years.
"I haven't had the type of horse that you need for this system — older geldings that just keep going round. There is a few young ones there but I have been pretty quiet."
It's been by design, though.
"I've always intended to wind down a little bit and will continue to do so over the next 12 months. I'm 65 at the end of the year and I don't need to be working 11-hour days forever."