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
''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
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.