Polytrack specialist First Rock will give Riccarton trainer Richard Didham a gilt-edged opportunity to rack up his first solo training win on their home track on Thursday.
Didham has produced El Roca mare First Rock for sizzling sprint wins on the Riccarton all-weather track at her previous two starts, while he was still training in partnership with his father Les.
While the Didhams are still training out of the same facility at Riccarton, each is training in their own name this season to provide something of a succession plan for the stable.
"I've won 93 races, all in partnership with Dad. We're training under our own names now and he got a jump on me when Jin Lu won at Riccarton the other day so now I've got to catch up," Didham quipped.
“Dad’s going to slip away from it shortly but at the moment he’s still there and he’s still supporting me. I’ve just got to stand on my own two feet now and the more experience I can get the better it will be. Everything is going great so far.”
A winner of six of her 31 starts, five of those since joining the Didhams from Te Awamutu trainer Debbie Sweeney in February last year, First Rock has won both her starts on the Riccarton polytrack, following her 3-1/4 length all-weather debut win with a slick 1:8.99 win over 1200m by 2-1/2 lengths last start.
With regular rider Megan Taylor suspended, Riccarton apprentice Sanu Toolooa will claim 3kg off the frontrunner's carded weight of 59.5kg for the Christchurch Casino South Island Racing Awards 1200 on Thursday.
"She won with 50 kilos the first time and then 54, now it's 56 1/2 but it's still a luxury weight and she's an easy ride," Didham said.
"She just goes fast and I think she's only got faster since she's been on the synthetic. She's drawn the ideal gate in barrier one and even though there's only six runners, that's only going to help.
"She seems pretty much spot on again. She doesn't take much work but when she goes, she goes pretty quick.
"Megalomaniac did run second to her the first time she won and he's probably the hardest to beat but if she goes like she's been going, she should just deliver again. She's primed and ready to win again."
Earlier this week, First Rock was named as one of three finalists for the South Island polytrack horse of the year.
"It's great for the owners. We're going to go to the awards and we'll have a bit of fun," Didham said.
Didham will also produce The Growler in the same race on Thursday, the Darci Brahma nine-year-old finishing a luckless third at Oamaru last start when caught behind tiring runners.
"It was like he didn't really have a run at Oamaru with the two leaders collapsing in front of him which brought him back to nearly a stand-still. This is another race that will get a bit more fitness under his belt," Didham said.
Didham will also produce Vickezzrose, Vino Bella and Tiffen at Thursday's meeting.
Tivaci filly Vickezzrose will step up to 1400m in what could be a stepping stone towards November's Gr.1 Barneswood Farm 50th NZ 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton on November 12.
"She should be competitive. We did consider the three-year-old race but they are really fast horses and we're thinking about further down the track. A bit of time and a bit of ground won't hurt her. If she was to win tomorrow, she'd definitely be heading towards the Guineas," Didham said.