SEVEN months on from joining David Moran's stable at Kialla, near Shepparton, as a co-trainer, the thrills are mounting for Bendigo's Rod Lakey.
With Moran currently sidelined and into the third month of a seven-month suspension, Lakey is assuming plenty of extra responsibility.
One of those tasks has been a more hands-on role with pacing millionaire, the sensational Lochinvar Art.
Still based in Bendigo, but travelling back and forth to Kialla each day, Lakey is listed as the superstar's current trainer.
The 46-year-old Lakey is as understated as can be when it comes to his role with Lochinvar Art, a winner of 28 races for earnings of $1,400,956, including the Hunter Cup, Victoria Cup, Chariots Of Fire and the four-year-old Vicred Super Series.
"I guess it's another step forward in my comeback," he said.
"It's a great opportunity Dave has given me, putting these types of horses in my name. He didn't have to do that. It's good he's done that and hopefully good for my career."
Back in work under Lakey's care, the stable's sights for Lochinvar Art are set on the Inter Dominion Championships, which will be staged later this year in Victoria.
That plan comes on the back of a dramatic last 15 months for 'Artie', including a cracked cannon bone and a long rehabilitation in New South Wales, before a stirring return to racing with his second in the Group 2 Shepparton Cup in January.
He finished third in his next start in the Group 1 Ballarat Cup and fifth in the Group 1 Hunter Cup at Melton behind King Of Swing, before plans for a tilt at the Miracle Mile in New South Wales were abruptly shelved by Moran.
"He had a little bit of a setback after his last campaign," Lakey said.
"He was meant to just have a couple of weeks off, but he had a little setback. He cut open a heel and ended up having to have four weeks off in a box.
"But he's through that now and his hoof is A1 and he is on the comeback trail.
"He is only jogging up at the moment and not doing any fast work, but he's on the way back."
Lakey said 'Artie' was a good three months away from a return to racing, but he was hopeful the champion six-year-old could get back to somewhere near his brilliant best.
Undeterred by the roughly 250km round-trip northeast each day, Lakey is relishing his role at Kialla.
It's a great opportunity Dave (Moran) has given me, putting these types of horses in my name.- Rod Lakey
It followed a much-publicised return to harness racing driving in April 2020 after a 14-year hiatus, before further turning his hand to training in his own right in 2021.
On Saturday night at Melton, the stable will have two runners engaged in Group 1 races, with the two-year-old Roryville lining up in the colts and geldings division of the $150,000 APG Vic Gold Bullion Final and Lochinvar Jag engaged in the $125,000 three-year-old colts and geldings final.
"Being winter, the team has reduced a little bit, but we do have two runners in a Group 1 on Saturday, so that is an exciting day for everyone involved," he said.
"A Group 1 win would be nice."
Roryville, by Huntsville out of the mare Suenos Dulces, is having only his second lifetime start after finishing a close second in his heat at Ballarat on May 4.
Matched against the brilliant, but wayward Catch A Wave ($1.30 favourite), Lochinvar Jag will have his work cut out from gate 10, but is definitely starting to fill his immense potential, punctuated by back-to-back wins at Bendigo and Charlton in April-May and another at Melton in late March.
"Roryville is a bit of an unknown, we've never really asked him for full-bore," Lakey said in regards to the stable's two-year-old hope.
"He's drawn four. It's not a bad draw, but not a great draw either.
"They are both good enough to win if they get the right run, so we'll be hoping for a bit of luck on the night."
READ MORE: Rod Lakey back on board after 14-year hiatus
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