Hunterville horseman Ken Duncan may have saved the best for last with arguably the best bred galloper in the RC Hotel and Motor Lodge 145th Grand National Steeplechase at Riccarton on Saturday.
Shamal, Duncan's nine-year-old gelding by Zabeel out of the Volksraad mare Mistrale, is the defending grand national champion and is in better form in this season's lead up to the $75,000 5600m event.
In this year's lead up Shamal won the Ken and Roger Browne Memorial, the Waikato Steeplechase and finished fourth in the Hawkes Bay Steeple before winning a 3900m restricted open over the big fences at Te Rapa last start.
Duncan is an astute judge and is certain to have Shamal primed and ready for a repeat win over the 5600m journey tomorrow. He will be forced to carry 4kg more than he did last year, but with Buddy Lammas in the saddle that will not be a problem.
Since launching his jumping career as a rider Lammas and Duncan have formed a formidable partnership combining to win last year's national steeple and then on Wednesday just gone to win the Hospitality New Zealand Canterbury 130th Grand National Hurdles (4200m) with 20/1 shot Alfie Dee.
Lammas and Shamal also finished third in last year's Great Northern Steeplechase over the Ellerslie hill, a path Duncan is likely to take again safely through tomorrow's assignment.
Meanwhile, Waverley trainer Harvey Wilson is aiming for a memorable Grand National Carnival week.
The former three-time Olympian lined up his entire jumping team of two last weekend and came away with a win from It's A Wonder in the Yesberg Insurances Koral Steeplechase (4250m) and a runner-up finish from Bad Boy Brown in the Racecourse Hotel & Motor Lodge Sydenham Hurdles (3100m).
Bad Boy Brown was then beaten a lip by Alfie Dee in the Grand National Hurdles on Wednesday, so have the chance to turn the tables on Duncan tomorrow with It's A Wonder.
Wilson was rapt to see steeplechaser It's A Wonder do everything right to secure his victory and placed plenty of credit for the win on the shoulders of rider Shaun Phelan.
"Shaun rode him a treat," Wilson said.
Phelan had opted to ride it's A Wonder instead of sticking with Chocolate Fish in the Grand National Steeplechase on Saturday.
Iain Hyndman's Riccarton Tips
1: Sir Ritchie, Class Above, Revolution
2: Middagurd, Turncoat, Vasiliki
3: Chuck A Luck, Cee Sharp, Pure Class
4: Galway Garry, Ahyum, Karm 'N' Easy
5: Wafer, Ophelia Lee, Red Forest
6: Shamal, It's A Wonder, Des De Jeu
7: Red Sierra, Heni, King Cougar
8: Duke Of Plumpton, Tryfan, Humble Pie
9: Dez, Rosewood, Nomen Ludi
10: Mamba, Gloss, Nathan Detroit
Best Bet: Mamba (R10)