Start Wondering has some unfinished business in Saturday’s Group 1 JR & N Berkett Telegraph (1200m) at Trentham.
The Evan and JJ Rayner-trained gelding was nutted late by Signify in last year’s race, the nose defeat robbing him of a Group One treble, having flanked that performance with wins in the Railway (1200m) at Ellerslie and NRM Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa.
“We thought he was home,” Evan Rayner lamented.
“I said going into the race ‘the only thing that will beat him was a lightweight coming from behind’ and that’s exactly how it turned out.”
Start Wondering has warmed up for his shot at Telegraph redemption with a second placing in the Listed Levin Stakes (1200m) and a brave last-start fourth in the Gr.1 Railway (1200m) on a deteriorating slow 8 track at Ellerslie.
“He’s as well as we can have him. His work was good again this morning,” Rayner said.
“We just hope there’s not too much rain in Wellington. I was surprised how well he did go at Auckland. We decided to run him because it would have been too long between races if we scratched.
“He handled it far better than we expected. It was only when Johnathan [Parkes, jockey] let his head go to ride him out that he started floundering.”
TAB bookmakers opened Start Wondering as a $7.20 fifth favourite for the Telegraph, with the Steve and Jo Gudsell-raced seven-year-old facing a possible tactics change after drawing barrier 14 in the 18-horse field.
“I would have preferred a better draw but we’ll go ahead and run him and if the track does deteriorate, the wide draw might be more favourable,” Rayner said.
“We’ll ride him a bit colder and have a late run at them. We just think if we go forward from there, it would leave him wide open to being shot down late again. There are some very good lightweight horses there and there will be a lot of speed on, which will help us.
“We’re as confident as we can be. There might be a lightweight that shoots us down again but we’re very happy with him.”
Rayner said safely through the Telegraph, Start Wondering would return to Te Rapa to defend his title in the Gr.1 NRM Sprint (1400m) on February 10 and while he was open to most options after that, another trip to Australia was off the table.
“He hasn’t had a lot of racing so we’ll assess what’s available after Te Rapa but he won’t be going back to Australia again. We’ve been there and done that now,” he said