Gavin Smith is hopeful coming in fresh next week with top trotter Great Things Happen for the $300,000 Dominion at Addington on Friday, November 16, will bring a change of fortune.
Great Things Happen was the beaten Dominion favourite 12 months ago, but he did win the other Group One trot in Cup week, the $96,000 Granite Benchtop Company NZ Trotting Free-For-All.
Three days before the 2017 Dominion, the big Love You gelding brilliantly won the NZ Trotting Free-For-All (1950m), in a 1:56.9 mile rate, a NZ record for the former Addington sprint trip.
Gavin still can't put his finger on why the horse didn't perform as well in the Dominion, but this year the "Used To Me" Haras des Trotteurs Dominion Trot has been the sole target.
"I've won a NZ Trotting Free-For-All but haven't won a Dominion so it's been all about the Dominion this year." he said.
"We've given him an extra lead-up race and given him an easier time over the last week, so if he doesn't win, I have no excuses."
"I love my trotters so to win it would be like winning the NZ Cup for trotters."
It's been a case of managing a hoof crack along the way with Great Things Happen this spring, and to this end, he's had a helping hand from fellow North Canterbury trainer Bob Butt.
"His foot crack was coming back even with me taking to the beach every fast work day, so I have left him with Bob to try the pool and it has worked so far," he said.
"He's as sound as he's been in the last two years and his last run said he was exactly where we want him."
Great Things Happen met a check at the 600m and charged home from the rear for second to Woodstone over 2600m at Addington on November 2, the winner holding by a length and a half in 3:21.1, and the leaders last 800m in 57.7s.
He was also second, beaten by half a length, after leading up in the Group Three $30,000 'The Pres' Trotters Flying Mile at Ashburton on October 22, won in a NZ record 1:54.5 (1609m) by Marcoola.
His other two lead-up races this spring include a fourth to Harriet Of Mot in the Group Threee Canterbury Park Trotting Cup at Addington on October 5, and a fresh-up win in a mobile 1980m free-for-all trot at Addington on August 17.
The seven-year-old has raced 35 times for 14 wins and nine placings, earning $208,126 in stakes.
He will be one of a number of leading hopes this year. With luck on his side, he will be searching for the most important victory of an already stellar career.