Stig is becoming trotting’s version of the Never-ending Story.
The veteran trotter, already the hero of one of the greatest comebacks in racing history, takes on rivals up to seven years younger than him at Addington tomorrow night.
Remarkable as that is, if he performs up to the level trainer Paul Nairn expects, he will be on a plane to Melbourne next week for the A$350,000 Great Southern Star.
Rising 12-year-olds embarking on Trans Tasman campaigns may be unheard of but Nairn says even after a disappointing season, Stig’s connections are keen for a crack at the richest prize in Southern Hemisphere trotting.
“I know at times he hasn’t been as sharp as he can be this season, which you are going to get with a horse his age,” admits Nairn.
“But he is trotting well now and feeling no real soreness.
“I think he will improve on his last start (second) and if he races well this week he will head back to Melton.” Stig won a A$50,000 heat of the Great Southern Star at Melton last year before galloping in the final, although he never really looked happy on the Victorian track.
But this year’s event, which comprises two heats and a final in the same night on Saturday, lacks a superstar in the form winner Vulcan was last season.
So a fully fit and sound Stig could still out tough his younger rivals.
He will need to be good to cement the trip as he meets one of the new breed of open class trotting in this country in Royal Aspirations, who has developed from a speed freak age group trotter into a genuine topliner.
Nairn also expects a bold return tomorrow night from his Harness Jewels winner One Over Da Moon, who is over recent problems, but summer star Any Old Way is not and is heading for the paddock.
If Stig does make it to Victoria he will join defending champion Vulcan, Stent and The Fiery Ginga in the GSS, as well as Kiwi-owned favourites Flying Isa and Keystone Del.
But Vulcan’s high-profile stablemate Peak faces a long layoff after x-rays yesterday confirmed a splint bone issue, yet trainer Tim Butt says it could have been worse.
“We were worried he had a suspensory issue but that scanned fine today,” says Butt.
“But it looks like he has a splint bone issue, which is easier to fix.
“So he will have an operation next Monday and hopefully can be back in work in three months.”
Peak created a huge impression winning his first two New Zealand starts after being imported from Scandinavia last spring before being struck down by the issues.
Meanwhile, tonight’s Manawatu meeting sees one of the great dropback tips of the new handicapping system in Jarcullembra.
A former New Zealand Cup starter, Jewels runner-up to Terror To Love and the winner of over $200,000 in stakes, Jarcullembra hasn’t won for nearly two years so has dropped back to being assessed as a five-win horse.
That sees him starting against horses who will never scale the heights he has been to in tonight’s $12,000 Palmerstonian, suggesting he will be at short odds in the 2000m mobile.
By Michael Guerin (Harness Racing New Zealand)