Whanganui jumping sensation Tallyho Twinkletoe is on target to repeat his history-making Australian Hurdles/Steeplechase double of last year.
Owned by former top Kiwi jumps jockey Jo Rathbone and Whanganui farmers David Macnab and Simon Harrison, Tallyho Twinkletoe was sent to Australia just days before the Grand National Hurdle from Kevin "Dummy" Myers' Whanganui stable last year.
In the care of Plumpton trainer Patrick Payne, Tallyho Twinkletoe demolished his rivals in the Australian Hurdle just days after arriving before going on to claim the Australian Steeplechase to equal the feats of a champion jumper from early last century.
He became the first horse since Mosstrooper in 1930 to complete the Grand National Hurdle/Steeplechase double in the same year.
Tallyho Twinkletoe has taken a similar path this year and was star billing at last Sunday's Pakenham meeting in Australia.
In fact, the NZ suffix dominated proceedings at Pakenham with all six jumping races taken out by Kiwi horses.
Payne led the way with three victories, including features with Tallyho Twinkletoe (Brendan Dreschler Hurdle, 3500m) and Myers co-owned Slowpoke Rodriguez (Mosstrooper Steeplechase, 3500m).
Payne labelled the former as the best jumper he has trained, while Slowpoke Rodriguez has become one of his favourites.
"He's [Tallyho Twinkletoe] the complete package," Payne told RSN927.
"I loved a horse called Sea King (another Myers-trained jumper). He was a good jumper and had stamina but this horse has a little bit more dash in him.
"He's an unbelievable horse, he's got an unbelievable engine and just keeps coming and coming.
"He was going from 2400m to 3500m on a very testing track like Pakenham.
"The last 100m his fitness told so let's hope he derives a lot of benefit from that and keeps going forward."
Payne was less optimistic about Slowpoke Rodriguez's chances heading into Sunday, however, he believes the son of Istidaad derived a lot of benefit from his 2025m hit-out at Cranbourne earlier in the week.
"I was really happy with him early in his preparation, but he put in a few flat runs. I'm not too sure what it was, whether it was the heavy ground or not," Payne said.
"We have got pretty tough on him since his last run. He had a run on the flat on Wednesday and that might have been just what he needed.
"We have done it quite a bit in the past (backing up), but with this horse he has had two tendons, so we have been a little bit kind with him, he does all his fast work on the treadmill.
"He is my favourite horse and I just love the name. I have always held him in high regard, but he probably isn't as good as what I first thought."
Payne recorded a quinella in the race with fellow Kiwi-bred Killarney Kid.
"Killarney Kid is a bit older now and maybe not as good as what he used to be, but he's a lovely old horse and did what he could."
Earlier on the card, Eckhart recorded Payne's third victory of the day with his 15-length winning effort in his jumping debut.