Kāpiti Sport: Happy Star has won his last two starts for Ōtaki trainers Johno Benner and Hollie Wynyard. Photo: Race Images
Johno Benner has a bit of time for promising galloper Happy Star and the Ōtaki horseman, who trains in partnership with Hollie Wynyard, was excited to kick-off his preparation at Awapuni on last Saturday with a win.
The four-year-old son of Fabulous contested the Norwood 1400 after two solid trial. Happy Star followed that win with another victory at Awapuni today in the 1400m Waterforce Handicap, winning narrowly from Rock Island Line on a heavy track.
Last week Benner told Horsebetting.com that Happy Star had been going really well. "They were two beautiful trials to get him nice and fit for 1400m first-up on what will be a testing track. I couldn't be happier."
Happy Star recorded three wins and two placings from nine starts last year and Benner has taken a patient approach with the gelding who hasn't been sighted on raceday since September last year. All three of his wins have come on a heavy surface, so Benner was expecting a good showing from the gelding on what was a Heavy10 track.
"He is comfortable in heavy going and he should have a good preparation," he said. "He is above average and I think he is a very serious horse in the making. We'll just hope that we get off to a good start tomorrow and see where we get to. "We are hanging out to see a programme so we can start setting some goals and see what we are aiming for. We are all in the dark at the moment, but it's a good starting point anyway."
Meanwhile, the Ōtaki trainer is excited about the new season, particularly the prospects of exciting juvenile filly Key. The daughter of Exceed and Excel impressed when winning her 1000m trial at Ōtaki last month and she is now being set on a path towards the Group 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) in November.
"We have got some lovely horses and should have a nice spring," Benner said. "We have had a nice year so far, but it will be good to finish it off strong. "Key is a very smart filly. She is having a break and she will be seen in the spring. "There is a lot of water to go under the bridge before then, but a race like the 1000 Guineas is a race you have to target with a filly like her."