SUTTON Grange trainer Ross Graham believes Nephew Of Sonoko is racing at 'the peak of his powers' and is hopeful of converting that form into a major race win.
The six-year-old trotting gelding notched up his 14th race win at start number 107, with an effortless win in the $20,000 Aldebaran Park Trot (2240m) at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night.
Superbly driven by outstanding young reinsman James Herbertson, a win never looked in doubt after Nephew Of Sonoko reached the front early and was able to dictate terms.
A 6.4m win would easily have been far greater had he not been eased down.
It continued a solid season for the son of the much-underrated Wedderburn district sire Danny Bouchea and the mare Sister Of Sonoko, highlighted by two metro wins and four placings from 16 starts for $42,300 in earnings, but importantly with only the one forgettable effort.
Graham was quick to write off Nephew Of Sonoko's last in the Group 2 Bendigo Trotters Cup in early April when he botched the start and was tailed off throughout.
The 49-year-old trainer-driver believed the installation of a water walker at his Sutton Grange property had been a huge boost to the Group 2-winning trotter's fitness and preparation.
"He's doing everything pretty good at the moment," Graham said.
"We've put in a water-walker to give him a bit more work without being too harsh on the horse.
"Even though they (the horses) are doing work in there, it's not pounding work like they're doing out on the track.
"It's trimmed him up a bit and it's enabled us to get a bit more work into him.
"He seems to be trotting pretty sweet at the moment."
At only six years, there looks to be plenty more left for Nephew Of Sonoko, whose biggest success to date came in last year's Group 2 VicBred Platinum Metropolitan Trot Final at Melton in May.
He only narrowly missed going back-to-back in the race, beaten by less than a metre by the Jason McNaulty-trained Chissy at Melton last month.
Graham is optimistic, and with the right amount of luck, a major race win is within reach.
"He's probably at the peak of his powers now, so if he's ever going to win one, now is the time," he said.
"That wasn't quite a free for all Saturday night, so there are a few other horses he is going to face, which are very nice horses.
"It's going to be hard, but I'd say he's in with a show.
"It was a nice field on Saturday night, but there are a few other ones he will have to face in the free for alls."
Herbertson, who has driven Nephew Of Sonoko in both of his 2022 victories, felt a win was always safe in their keeping after reaching the front and getting away with a few cheap sectionals.
"There was no pressure and he began well. He's a little horse who a while back had no gate speed at all, so he's come a long way and he is getting off the gate pretty clean now," he said.
"He worked to the front, got a good quarter and just rolled from the 1200m pretty much.
"These trot races, a lot of it comes down to the draws; sometimes they are very even, sometimes they are very hard.
"Look at the race last week, this bloke, with a bit more luck, he probably would have won, but circumstances permitting, the decision I made got him beaten in the end. But hindsight's a wonderful thing.
"The horse is going really well and tonight (Saturday) he won easy and should have with the times he got.
"He's come a long way and he'll be here for a long while yet."
Nephew Of Sonoko bought up Graham's 18th win as a trainer this season,with his tally boosted by a double at Ballarat on Friday night with Hair Razor and Tophut Johny.
Combined with 50 placings, he boasts a 27 per cent win-place strike rate.
The stable will have three runners at Bendigo on Tuesday night - Lucy Sawyer, Manbar Princess and Master Works - and a strong chance at Ballarat on Wednesday with Azza.
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