It’s a difficult role played by John McNair, the trainer of an incredibly special talent which can win at a canter, but also a horse that to date is completely outclassed himself.
That’s the predicament faced by Hay List depending completely on whether Black Caviar is in the field.
Despite this, McNair has never been a man to give up and he continues to work Hay List with intentions of bringing down the unbeaten run of the great mare.
There were concerns earlier in the week that he may not line up against Black Caviar in this weekend’s BTC Cup but he’s put those worries at ease.
“He got rid of a shoe on Monday, stewards were doing their job making sure everything is right…one thing that never bothers me is getting vets to look at a horse,” McNair said.
With that out of the way McNair could focus on morning track work and he was content with what he saw.
“Terrific, he did some easy work then ran home 21 on a slow track. He had a bit of a blow which is the part I don’t like but that’s just him, everything is 100%,” he said.
It’s been a fairly long campaign for Hay List but McNair isn’t concerned about pushing his charger further than expected.
“The amount of work you can put into them just gives them that extra edge in fitness over their competition,” he said.
It will take plenty of fitness to get passed Black Caviar though and McNair will pick his battles from here on in.
“At 1000m I don’t think we can beat her, at 1200m it’s not going to be an easy task, it can probably be done, we’ll need a few things in our favour and a few things to go wrong with her,’ he said.
“1350m – 1400m, that’s where I think we’ll come into our own.”
While McNair feels the longer races are his best hope, if he were to pick up an unexpected win on the weekend he’d likely shelve the rest of the carnival, including the Stradbroke Handicap.
“Weights will ultimately determine what happens, if we can win the BTC Cup I think I’ll be happy to pull up stumps and give him a break,” he said.
“It isn’t very far from there to the Stradbroke, initially we intended to pull up after the TJ so you never say never,” he said.
We can also expect to see some different tactics from Hay List during his races with new plans being developed to tackle Black Caviar.
“We’ve been putting in a bit of time to teach him to pull back under and settle,” he said.
“I’ve never been a fan of horses that lead because sometimes they’re just a chopping block.
“At the distance at weight for age that’s when he’ll get out in front because nothing will match him for sheer cruising speed, when the distance extends he’ll come into his own.”
It’s been a very different preparation in terms of logistics for both the superstars with Black Caviar arriving in Brisbane a week and a half ago.
Hay List is still based down south and will more or less have no time to settle in once he arrives.
“I’ll leave tomorrow evening, he seems to travel very very well so you’ve either got to go late like this or go a couple of weeks early, ” he said.
The lead up to the BTC Cup has been very entertaining, boosted by the constant banter back and forth from the Black Caviar and Hay List camps.
McNair maintains though that it’s all in good fun.
“Neither of us are taking any of this seriously, we look forward to getting on and doing our job,” he said.