River Run was July's winter-track bully but Cambridge trainer Tony Pike won't be surprised if he can extend his winning streak into August at Ruakaka on Saturday.
Pour Moi eight-year-old gelding River Run raced three times in July, winning on each occasion, in the Te Awamutu, Whangarei and Taumarunui Cups.
Raced by Ngapuke Racing's Mandy and Matt Brown, River Run goes into Saturday's Hirepool Ruakaka Cup (2200m) with a 61.5kg allotted weight as Pike ponders just how high he needs to raise the bar for his spring targets.
"He's been thereabouts in some of the better races before now. Right through the summer, he was close in good Cups races and while the opposition is easier through the winter, he's found a new lease of life," Pike said.
"He's got a boost of confidence and he's racing in great form. He's an older horse now and we've had to iron out a few little niggles but he's maturing into a really sound horse who is really happy in his environment.
"Even in his trackwork and around the stables, his demeanour is really good. The next challenge will be when the tracks firm up and he's having to run quicker times against better horses but at this stage, his form is impeccable and he hasn't taken any harm from any of his races.
"He seems to be able to carry weight too, which is going to be a big thing going forward. He was pretty dominant with 60 kilos the other day so it will be interesting to see how he copes with another kilo and a half on Saturday."
Now a winner of six of his 36 starts and with his rating creeping up to 91, River Run could be asked to carry close to topweight in races such as the Counties and Waikato Cups, races he finished fourth and fifth in respectively last season from the minimum.
It has also prompted Pike to consider a weight-for-age target later in the spring, entering River Run for the Gr.1 Livamol Classic (2040m) at Hastings on October 15.
"As long as he's happy and racing well, he'll carry on right through the summer Cups. He'll tell us how he's going but we've thrown in a cheeky nomination for the Livamol," Pike said.
"He might not be competitive on a good track at weight-for-age but we'll leave him in there in case the weather turns and we end up with a wet track.
"He's just one of those neat older horses to have around the stable. He's never going to be a superstar but he's justy genuine and honest and he keeps on winning that prizemoney."
Staying in the saddle for Saturday's staying feature will be Kozzi Asano, who has been aboard for all three wins.
"Kozzi rides a lot of trackwork on him and he's not the easiest horse to be fair. He's got his quirks but Kozzi knows him and gets on with him, hence we've kept him on rather than opting for a claim."
Pike will also chase the Ruakaka feature with last-start Listed Ryder Stakes (1200m) winner Pacific Dragon tackling the Gr.3 Cambridge Stud Northland Breeders’ Stakes (1200m).
"We're pretty confident with her. Her work has been super," Pike said.
"It will be interesting to see how she matches up against some of the best early three-year-olds but she'll have a fitness edge on them and she'll be hard to beat.
"She's been right up with the best two-year-olds of her season and she's handling the racing well. She goes into this rock-hard fit on a reasonably testing track so you'd think she'd be a big chance."
Pike will also produce Poverty Bay and Prince Of Tallin on the undercard.
"They are hopefully getting ready for bigger things but should be eachway chances,” he said.
Group One winner Catalyst stepped out for Pike at Tuesday's Avondale trials and coasted home pleasingly just in behind the placegetters of his 1000m heat, a pipe-opener ahead of the Gr.2 Waikato Stud Foxbridge Plate (1200m) at Te Rapa on August 27 and the Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) at Hastings on September 10.
"I was very happy, he's flying," Pike said.
"It's going to be hard to win fresh-up after two years away but he'll head to the Foxbridge and he'll be nearing his peak by the time he gets to Hawke's Bay."
Another Pike-trained Hastings spring carnival contender Field Of Gold won his 1000m heat at Avondale, beating Group One winner Maven Belle.