Racing: Home advantage helps Den Helder

Den Helder had a little-known head start over the rest of his rivals at Cromwell yesterday.

The son of McArdle, who broke through for his first win in a mobile pace on the Cromwell track, knew the grass circuit better than most, having spent some time on the mile-long track with part-owners Martin Buckley and Gary Preston.

He joined Ryal Bush trainer Peter Hunter in the past two months for his racing campaign and, after a tough run at Gore on December 27, Den Helder broke through to win by of a length, holding off the fast finish of Central Seven.

''A lot of the credit has to go to Martin Buckley,'' Preston said.

''We worked him up in Queenstown, got him fit and brought him over here once a week in winter with another filly we had.''

The pair would bring the gelding to Cromwell on any fine day they could during the winter, missing only a couple of weeks during the 2012 winter.

Preston, Buckley and the other owners - Eoin Buckley, Jules Hamlin and Michael Scott - all work in the transport business in Queenstown, although Martin Buckley missed out on the victory celebrations as he was working.

''We were pretty confident he would go well on the grass. He's very familiar with [Cromwell], it's home for him,'' he said.

Preston originally bought the horse with Greg Payne at the 2011 Australasian Classic yearling sales in Auckland and entered the second foal of Parisian Petra in the 2011 ready to run sales. However, he was passed in so Preston got his mates involved instead.

''We knew it would take another 12 months or so to get him to this stage, so he was never going to make it as a 2yr-old.''

Preston has dabbled in standardbreds over the past 20 years or so, having a share in Flashing Eyes who won four races for trainer John Lischner. He also had an involvement in the breeding of Shaq Attaq, who won five races out of the Paul Nairn stable in the early 2000s.

''I've always had one or two on the go,'' Preston said.