A tilt at next month's Hospitality New Zealand Canterbury Grand National Hurdles (4200m) at Riccarton is beckoning El Corby if he can regain is best form at Te Aroha on Sunday.
Te Awamutu trainer Clinton Isdale is expecting the Istidaad nine-year-old to bounce back to his best after his first hurdle for the stable ended in disappointment in last month's Awapuni Hurdles (2900m).
"He was unlucky. He was travelling really well into the race. He was coming off the bridle nicely when another horse fell in front of him," Isdale said.
"He had nowhere to go and went down over the top of him. We were confident with him going into the race. He'd won well on the flat the start before and he was working well.
"He's come through it fine. He hasn't left any feed. We've had the chiropractor go over him and his work has been good, so it's all go for Sunday. With a bit of luck this weekend, we're hoping he can win."
A winner of three of his 14 hurdle starts, including two in the role at Te Aroha, El Corby looks a leading prospect in the Victor & Frank Matijasevich Open Hurdle (3100m).
"We just want to finish a jumps race because he's had no luck. If he could win, we'd think about getting him to Christchurch for the Grand National."
Sunday's race will be El Corby's fifth start in Isdale's care, having previously been trained by owner Graham Falconer.
"I rode work for Graham all the time and he thought rather than bring him to the track every morning himself, he'd leave him with me. He's been with me this whole preparation," Isdale said.
It's shaping as a busy weekend for Isdale, who will produce Colorado Bay in the Richards Construction 1200 at Awapuni on Saturday, hoping to improve on his third placing at the track two starts back, while Georgethefifth looks the horse to beat in the maiden steeplechase at Te Aroha and he will don the silks himself to ride Gingee in the amateur riders' race the same day.
Georgethefifth was beaten a nose at his steeplechasing debut last month at Te Aroha.
"First time going over the steeplechase fences, he just got a bit lost. He just didn't have the fence to follow and didn't really know what it was all about," Isdale said.
"He got a bit tired but he rallied well again late. He will be better for that first experience of chasing and we'd like to think he'd go close."
Isdale has had 13 rides as an amateur jockey for two wins and was optimistic of a bold run from Gingee on Sunday.
"He's had two starts at Te Aroha for two placings. He fell last start but I'll roll forward and put him into the race and see what can happen.
"I love the amateur races. It's a good break from the training. I haven't ridden in as many as I'd have liked this season because I went up to China to help Craig Thornton and with 20 in work, it's hard to justify a trip away for the day." - NZ Racing Desk