Canterbury driver Blair Orange underlined his title credentials in the national premiership, when he reined three winners in the slush at Timaru on Sunday, to reach 35 for the season.
He is now 20 wins clear of 10-time successive premiership winner Dexter Dunn, who had a delayed start to the season.
Dunn drove Linton Shard to win fresh-up since March in the last yesterday to make it four winners for the weekend and 15 overall.
Orange had sustained his flying start by driving five winners for the weekend before he arrived at a wet and cold Phar Lap Raceway.
Many believe this could be the season he breaks his title drought, after running second the last four, last time notching 193 wins to Dunn’s 228.
Orange got a strong start when Bettor’s Delight four-year-old mare Hot Off The Press ($7.50) cleared maidens nicely in the second race and then Live Or Die three-year-old colt Mongolian Mars ($2.10) led all the way to break his duck impressively in the fifth.
Promising three-year-old gelding Vandanta ($1.70) made it a treble for Orange on debut in the eighth race, despite settling in the last four after a sluggish beginning as Vintage Beach led.
He was eased to three-back outer and sprinted sharply at the 800m to hit the front, Orange sitting quietly the last 100m, outstaying his rivals by 1.5 lengths.
The son of Christian Cullen recorded 3:25.5 for the 2600m stand trip, the last 800m in 57.3sec and the 400m in 28.6.
He had won his last three trials for Weedons trainer Nigel McGrath.
Linton Shard ($3.60) won the last for Dunn to complete a tricky $25,000 Pick6, with 0.38 winning units.
It had been rocked by longshot first-leg winner Rainy River ($17), driven by Kyle Cameron.