Veteran Sydney trainer Peter Snowden has scaled the dizzy heights of racing, including back-to-back Everest wins with Redzel, but home has always been the Hunter Valley.
So the Scone born and bred horseman has regularly returned to the Hunter, and regularly won, especially at Newcastle.
The $1 million Newcastle Herald The Hunter (1300 metres), now in its fifth year, remains one of the few features in the region to elude Snowden and his training partner son, Paul. Their best result is Signore Fox's fifth in 2021, when Lost And Running was a dominant winner.
This year shapes as the Snowden's best chance yet, with two-time Everest runner Mazu and King Of Sparta among the leading chances in the quality handicap.
Mazu was battling Murwillumbah trainer David McColm's Far Too Easy for favouritism at $5.50 with the TAB, while King Of Sparta was $8.
Mazu, which was third in the 2022 Everest, has endured a luckless spring campaign. Locked in for another Everest shot, the Maurice five-year-old resumed with a ninth in the The Shorts (1100m) after a tough run from a wide draw, then was scratched from the Premiere Stakes (1200m) when slightly lame on race day.
The disrupted lead-in was compounded by a bad draw in 11 for The Everest (1200m), where he then struck heavy interference in the straight to finish second last.
Mazu was then fifth, just over two lengths away from winner Bella Nipotina, in the Giga Kick Stakes (1300m) after a three-wide run for most of the trip.
Snowden was hoping for better luck in The Hunter after drawing six in the 16-horse event.
"Nothing has gone right but he's been racing against the best of the best, too," Snowden said.
"And he's had wide runs and whatnot. But they are the best horses around and he's getting beat only two lengths, so he's not far off the mark.
"It's been a bit frustrating we haven't won, but he gets his chance on Saturday probably."
Snowden has won all of the traditional group races at Newcastle, except for the Tibbie Stakes, and he has claimed three of the six Max Lees Classic for two-year-olds, a race now part of The Hunter standalone program.
A win for Mazu in The Hunter, though, would top them all.
"It would be a great race to win for more reasons than one, especially for this horse to get back into winning form would be special," he said.
"It's home so it's always good to go home, and winning races back where you come from is always special."
And he believed the Premiere Stakes setback should improve Mazu's chances in a race he was spelled before last year.
"He's missed one run this prep coming through, so he's always been one behind," he said.
"I just thought this time he still had a good one in him and his third and fourth runs are always his best, and this will be his fourth one this prep, so I'm happy with him."
Mazu trialled well, running strongly through the line, when fourth on Monday at Hawkesbury with Nash Rawiller aboard. Rawiller keeps the ride on Saturday.
Chad Schofield pilots King Of Sparta, which drew 10. The five-year-old I Am Invincible gelding was eighth last start in Everest consolation the Sydney Stakes (1200m) from gate 15 after a close second in the Bobbie Lewis Quality (1200m) at Flemington.
"He had a little tick-over trial last week just to keep him up to the mark, but he'll run well on Saturday," Snowden said.