Gershwin will be flying the flag as the only local runner in the Gr.2 Group 1 Turf Bar Trotters Flying Mile (1609m) at Cambridge Raceway on Christmas Eve.
The Ross Paynter-trained seven-year-old will come up against a star-studded field, including a number of Inter Dominion contenders and Oscar Bonavena, arguably the most exciting square-gaiter in this part of the world.
“He will be up against it, but his owners were keen to start him in that race, so that’s where he is heading,” Paynter said.
“We will be happy if he gets around in one piece and just goes a good, solid race. You can’t expect too much racing those horses.”
The winner of 11 races, Gershwin heads into Tuesday’s race off the back of a disappointing unplaced run over 2700m at his home track last start, but Paynter said he had a few excuses.
“He was a bit disappointing last start, but he was off 45m and they went 29 off the front and then he got pushed three wide,” he said.
“He is good left-handed, so at least he won’t be off a big 45m handicap on Tuesday, but you have got six of the best trotters in the country there, it’s a very good field.”
While Paynter is hoping for a strong performance from Gershwin, he is looking forward to the Steve Dunne 80th Birthday Handicap Trot (2700m) where he will be represented by Aoraki and Rave Nation.
Both mares have been out of form of late, but Paynter is hoping for a better showing from the pair on Tuesday.
“Aoraki has been really disappointing in her last few starts,” Paynter said. “I have run a blood off her and her blood has come back good and she scoped well. She might have just been feeling her leg, she had a bit of a leg problem.
“Hopefully she is a bit better this week. She worked well and David Butcher is having a drive on her this week, so we will see.”
The five-year-old daughter of Lucky Chucky had been heavily in season in the last few months, so Paynter is hoping a positive test to Group One-winning stallion Royal Aspirations may help settle Aoraki on raceday.
“She has just got in-foal to Royal Aspirations. She has been a handful and had been coming into season every two weeks,” he said.
Paynter believes Royal Aspirations has potential at stud and was willing to take a punt on the young sire.
“We have got another broodmare, a sister to Lemond who we go quite expensive with on the good stallions, so we went a bit cheaper with her,” he said.
“I quite like him. He has left a few two-year-old qualifiers already this season. I used to have his grandmother, Aspiring Lass, when I worked for Charlie (Hunter). That’s half the reason I have gone to him.”
Paynter will also contest the 2700m event with three-win mare Rave Nation who will have her third start this preparation.
“She has taken a bit to come back, she had a bit of a break,” he said. “She is quite a thick-winded mare, so you have got to race her to get her fit. She just takes a few decent runs to get back into the swing of things.
“She will be having a run just trying to get fit enough so we can send her to Manawatu or somewhere like there.”
Meanwhile, Paynter is happy with the progress of Open-Class trotter Lemond who is recovering from a stress fracture to his tibia.
“He’s been boxed for six weeks. He is resting a lot, which is good when they have a stress fracture,” Paynter said.
“He goes out for a pick of grass a couple of times a day and he is looking really good. In a couple of more weeks we will probably go to a bigger yard with him.
“It is a six month process with him. The vet is quite confident that he will come back fully recovered.”