Southern trainer Alister Black has just enjoyed his most successful season and will have the majority of his best performers to call on again in the 2018/19 term.
Thanks to the likes of talented three-year-olds Kilowatt Kid, Vintage Cheddar and Lawrence, Black's team topped $100,000 in gross earnings for the first time while keeping up his strike rate of one win every six or seven starts.
And his next winner will create another first by being Black's 50th, more than half of them having come in the past three seasons.
First cab off the rank will be Chilli Franco, a winner on the grass at Cromwell in January. She was placed at Ascot Park on 9 June, the last time a race meeting was held in Southland and should be on deck for the resumption, at Gore on August 11.
The Village Master mare has not raced since a junior driver contest at Forbury Park and while Black is not getting carried away about her chances first time back, he is hoping for success, sooner rather than later.
“She's going okay and we'd like to get a win before the breeding season,” he said.
Ossessione is the winner of six and likely to kick off his fourth season of racing at the second Gore meeting on 26 August.
As in previous years, Black is not about to make predictions.
“He's a good old battler but I wouldn't want to play cards with him. When he started out I thought he might struggle to win one but first time to the races and he found another 10 seconds.”
The rating 60 pacer has won twice at Gore, including at the corresponding meeting two years ago.
Neither Lawrence nor Kilowatt Kid have raced since finishing fifth and sixth respectively in the Southern Supremacy Stakes and are still in the early stages of new preparations.
“They've been back in for six weeks and are still jogging,” Black said of the Tuapeka Lodge-bred pair.
“The South of the Waitaki race on Show Day will be their first target and later the Country Cups.”
Vintage Cheddar, who picked up a rich maiden on Diamonds Day, the Bluff Cup in June, and in between ran a close second to the All Star's three-year-old Mach Up in a $20k race at Addington, is still spelling.
“I'd considered him for the Winter South of the Waitaki races but decided to give him an extended break. He'll probably get another month out.”
Black's other winner, Six Diamonds, has been retired but his classy trotter Get Lucky, second to Enhance Your Calm in the Two-year-old Trotting Stakes and fourth in the Sires Stakes after a big run from well back, is ready to resume.
“He's coming in tomorrow, the major three-year-old trots aren't till after Christmas, horses can change so much from two to three so there is no hurry with him, we'll see how he comes up.”