A labour of love has been repaid in full after Whanganui galloper Tallyho Twinkletoe swept the Australasian jumping fraternity off its feet in Ballarat on Sunday.
The Whanganui-owned and trained galloper won the E-Cycle Solutions Australian Grand National Steeplechase.
He equalled the feats of a champion jumper from early last century with his dominant victory on Sunday when he became the first horse since Mosstrooper in 1930 to complete the Grand National Hurdle/Steeplechase double in the same year.
Owned by former top Kiwi jumps jockey Jo Rathbone and Whanganui farmers David Macnab and Simon Harrison, Tallyho Twinkletoe was sent over to Australia just days before the Grand National Hurdle from Kevin "Dummy" Myers' Whanganui stable.
He landed late on the Wednesday night before Ballarat conditioner Patrick Payne trialled him before the stewards on the Thursday and gained his Australian jumping ticket.
Payne then presented Tallyho Twinkletoe the following Sunday at Sandown (August 4) when he demolished his Grand National Hurdle rivals by some seven lengths under Kiwi rider Aaron Kuru. Kuru was standing in for the injured Mathew Gillies.
Kuru was on again just weeks later when history was made on Sunday just gone. Nine lengths was the margin this time around.
Payne called himself the "puppet trainer" to the awaiting Australian media scrum, having taken over from Myers just days before the hurdle. The pair have formed a formidable partnership, particularly with jumpers over the past few years.
Tallyho Twinkletoe's victory followed the success of Sea King for the Payne/Myers combination in last year's Grand National Steeplechase.
"I used to love Sea King, but this horse is the best horse," Payne told media post race.
"He can take the race by the scruff of the neck.
"It's silly to say but from the mile he had them covered and took over 1000 [metres] out and not many horses can maintain a gallop like that.
"For a steeplechaser to win the Grand National Hurdle last time and come out and do it again today, that shows his class."
Tallyho Twinkletoe won the New Zealand Grand National Hurdle in August, 2015 before a series of niggling tendon injuries kept him off the track until March 2018.
He had a light campaign followed by another extended stay on the sidelines before he was prepared for his Australian campaign.
Payne was happy to deflect the glory to Myers and part-owner Jo Rathbone.
"All the work was done before he came to my place," Payne said.
"The smartest thing I could do was not change anything, keep him the same weight and just produce him the same and thank God they put a great foundation under him."
Rathbone had watched the Grand National Hurdle win at the home of fellow owner David Macnab in Whanganui. Macnab is now in his nineties. But Rathbone had flown over from New Zealand for Sunday's steeplechase. She was emotional following the win knowing how the horse had overcome numerous injuries in his career.
"It's just unreal, absolutely unreal," she said.
"We just kept bringing him into work and then he'd have small issues, he ended up being out for 2.5 years off and on."
The hard-working Rathbone had diligently persevered and finally overcame all those niggling injury issues to send a healthy, fit horse to her former boss Myers, who in turn worked his magic before packing him off to Payne's stable in Ballarat.
That labour of love from Rathbone has now been repaid in full.
The plan is to bring Tallyho Twinkletoe home to New Zealand for a well-earned spell before potentially returning to go for back-to-back Grand National Steeplechase victories next year.