Like many trainers around the country, Andrew Carston was excited to get back to his stables on Tuesday morning to welcome back some of his team.
The Riccarton conditioner had been experiencing his best term to date prior to racing ceasing as New Zealand entered Covid-19 Alert Level 4 restrictions last month.
With 26 wins, three of those at stakes level, Carston had already surpassed his previous best tally of 22 victories in the 2016/17 season.
“I have had the best season I have had by a fair way, I couldn’t be any happier,” Carston said.
“Obviously it is disappointing to lose the last little bit of the season, but that’s the way it is.”
There were plenty of highlights for Carston so far this season, but one that stands out above the rest was Miss Federer’s victory in the Listed NZB Airfreight Stakes (1400m) at Wingatui in February.
“My highlight was Miss Federer winning the fillies race in Dunedin, just with the issues we have had with her and she wasn’t going that well before the race,” Carston said.
“To come out and win the grand final was a massive thrill, and a relief.”
While Carston was rapt with the performances of his equine athletes, he has been just as proud of stable apprentice jockey Kozzi Asano’s efforts in the saddle.
The South Island’s leading hoop topped the national jockeys’ premiership for a large portion of the season and remains just six wins shy of current leader Lisa Allpress.
“To start the season as a three kilo claimer and to lead the premiership a fair way through the season is a massive result,” Carston said.
“It’s not over yet. It is going to be extremely difficult (to win the premiership) now for the fact that we can’t travel. But win, lose, or draw, he has had a fantastic season.
“He is a hard worker with a lot of ability and he deserves everything he gets.”
With nearly five weeks away from the stable, Carston said he was chomping at the bit to get back, admitting the last couple of weeks had been a bit of a struggle.
“The first couple were all right, but I was over it after that. Thank goodness for Australian racing, that definitely helped the situation.
“I have done a lot of planning in the last couple of weeks, but I am glad we are back in action.
“We got a team in yesterday (Tuesday) of 18. That mainly consists of young ones and about half a dozen race horses that don’t mind wet tracks. The spring horses don’t need to be in work for another month yet.
“Obviously we have got protocols to abide by, but I think things have gone pretty smoothly over the first couple of days.”
With the retirement of Gr.3 Canterbury Breeders’ Stakes (1400m) winner Ticket To Ride, Carston said he is particularly looking forward to the return of Sorceress and Miss Federer ahead of spring racing.
“Ticket To Ride has been retired, she did a massive job for us,” Carston said. “She came down here as a tried horse, to a degree.
“I thought we would pick up a bit of prizemoney and to win a Group Three is unbelievable for her. She was a pleasure to train and we got some good results with her.
“Sorceress is a horse with a lot of ability and Miss Federer is my flagbearer, so hopefully we will tackle a couple of spring targets with them.”