Never-say-die South Canterbury three-year-old Specialty could earn himself a shot at another Group One race if he can snare a Guineas double at Invercargill on Saturday.
The Rip Van Winkle gelding finished a gallant fifth in Pier's Gr.1 NZ 2000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton last November, having gone into that race as a previous-start winner of the Gr.3 Barneswood Farm Stakes (1600m) at Ashburton.
Back into stakes company for the first time since, Specialty ran past hot favourite Romancing The Moon to win this month's Listed Dunedin Guineas (1500m) at Wingatui.
Having come through that race in first-class order, Specialty steps up to 1600m in Saturday's Listed ILT Ascot Park Southland Guineas, with trainer Bruce Tapper again expecting his charge to fight for all he's worth.
"He's just a tough bugger. He can pull quite hard. He's the type of horse who would break his heart rather than give up," said Tapper, who trains in partnership with Varma Ramhit at Timaru.
"For that reason, I probably would have preferred another week between these two races but if he's good enough, he'll do it. We'd love him to win again."
Specialty has delighted Tapper with his preparation for the Southland Guineas and said he was in the same order as he was leading into his Dunedin Guineas win, the source of much satisfaction for the stable
"It was quite pleasing. We'll find out more this week, won't we?" Tapper said.
"He's only had one gallop since Dunedin - and that was yesterday (Tuesday) morning and it was really good work too."
Tapper and his wife Karen bought Specialty's dam Rio Tennille, a half-sister to his former 10-win galloper Five Kings, for $4800 as a weanling at Karaka in 2014.
She won a maiden before the Tappers sent her to Rip Van Winkle to produce Specialty. Rio Tennille has twice missed since but is currently in foal to White Robe Lodge stallion Ancient Spirit.
A Southland Guineas win would mean plenty for the Tappers, who operated a dairy farm at Otautau before pursuing a passion for training.
Though it's a six-hour trip south, Specialty has the luxury of spending the last of his lead-up time at the Otautau farm, where Tapper trained from before shifting to Timaru in 2018.
Specialty has drawn barrier 10 but Tapper hopes rider Brandon May can be as positive as he can to secure an economical run.
"Something will go hard and hopefully we can slot in three back somewhere, hopefully one-off the fence," he said.
Specialty holds a nomination for the Gr.1 Gee & Hickton Funeral Directors Levin Classic (1600m) at Trentham on March 18 and safely through the Southland Guineas, Tapper confirmed that would be his target.
"Definitely. A lot of the good horses will be gone and others will be aimed at the Derby. He sees a mile out, we know that," Tapper said.
The Tapper-Ramhit stable also has Our Clarry, So Natural and in-form mare Global Beauty in action at Invercargill.
"Global Beauty has drawn 18 but she'll come in to 13 and she gets back so it's not the end of the world. The whole team is going along nicely."