Winton trainer John Phillips would love nothing more than to win his third Winton Cup on Sunday.
Phillips has previously claimed success in his hometown feature on two occasions, with Jack Daniels winning in 1997 and King Prawn triumphant in 2013.
Eight-year-old Jimmy Choux gelding Midnight Runner gives Phillips a royal chance of completing the hat-trick in the Washrite Winton Cup (1400m) at Ascot Park this weekend.
"We've won it a couple of times when it was raced at home and I'd love to win it again," Phillips said.
"Being an ex-club president and committeeman for 40-odd years, it would be nice to win it again. Midnight Runner has only had a couple of runs at Invercargill and he won one of those, so it shouldn't worry him.
"He'll get an extra helping of oats in his bowl on Sunday if he does win anyway."
Formerly trained in the North Island, Midnight Runner has won four races since transferring to Phillips' stable in late 2020.
He goes into Sunday's race off the back of a fast-finishing second at Gore over 1100m last start.
"He went really well. He was three wide from pretty much the 700m and the winner was getting a pretty cheap run on the fence. It was a pretty good effort with that 62 kilos on his back," Phillips said.
"We've taken the hood off him so he doesn't pull too hard because he can truck up a little bit over 1400m. He's placed over 1600m before at Riverton when we took the hood off him and we think he should settle okay.
"He's going really well. He galloped the other morning with Silent Battler and they worked really well together and he might be our main rival on Saturday."
With Phillips opting to utilise Christchurch apprentice Megan Taylor's 3kg claim meets last year's winner Silent Battler 2.5kg better than he did at Gore when that horse finished seventh.
"He'll be more than competitive. He's got a good draw to work from (barrier three) so that should mean he's a lot handier than the other day when he drew eight and had no choice but to go back at Gore," Phillips said.
While Midnight Runner has won nine races and has placed at 1400m and 1600m, he has still yet to register a win past 1335m, which Phillips plans to remedy on Sunday.
However, he pointed out that Midnight Runner had won over 1400m at Wingatui in May before he was relegated for causing interference to runner-up Scarfi.
"He does struggle in the top company over 1400m but down here he'll be right. Invercargill is a bit tighter track and that suits him, whereas the bigger track at Riccarton doesn't so much," Phillips said.
"He's just a little below the top tier and he really needs cut in the track to be at his best. He might only have another couple of runs and we'll put him aside.
"Once the tracks start hardening up, they just go too quick for him and he starts jarring up. He’s done a huge job. He's won nine races and $220,000 in stakes and I think he's only been out of the money about 14 times in 48 starts so he's been pretty consistent."
Meanwhile, Phillips is looking forward to watching promising stayer Tiger Fire progress in the coming months.
"He's furnished into a really nice horse," he said.