Rookie trainer Nayton Mitchell is still riding the highs of a dream start to his training career.
West Melton-based Mitchell, 22, produced Gavelhouse.com purchase Authority to win at his first start from his new quarters at Wingatui last Friday, the Sweynesse five-year-old securing his maiden win at his 13th start but providing his trainer with a landmark first win from his first runner to the races.
"It was so good. It was a great feeling. We never expected to get that straight away but he's a super horse," Mitchell said.
"After he won the trial last week and he was working so well at home, we went into the race really happy with him. Since we've had him, his whole demeanour has changed at home.
"I was over the moon, especially as he didn't jump so well and there was a bit of interference in the race but he fought hard to the end so we were stoked."
Mitchell grew up in Auckland and rode ponies as a youngster, progressing to showjumping which led to a year riding in Ireland.
He returned to New Zealand and rode trackwork at Cambridge before taking a job at Highden Park, chiefly involved with the yearlings for owners Sam and Libby Bleakley.
"That time with Sam and Libby really set me up for a future in racing," he said.
"Libby is an amazing horseperson and she taught me a lot: being able to look at a type and what you needed to do to improve them, their nutrition and training. That's been a vital part in me knowing what I need to do to improve a horse for sure."
Mitchell moved to Canterbury late last year with the aim of developing his equestrian business.
"I've always wanted to be a trainer but I was loving what I was doing with my showjumpers," he said.
"I had a lot of freedom and I was riding some trackwork for Andrew Carston and he had a little mare Bella Dora that I was riding. I said to him one morning: 'This is the kind of horse I hope to train one day' and he said 'well she's actually going up on Gavelhouse today' and that's how it started."
Mitchell enlisted his friend and backer Charlotte Gray and they bought Bella Dora for $3000 and he began training her from his leased property in West Melton.
It soon led to the purchase of two others from Gavelhouse, including $5000 purchase Authority, who Mitchell trains and co-owns with Gray and Carston.
"Andrew was keen to help support me because he knows it's not easy running a racing stable when you're your own biggest owner. With all my newbie-type questions and things, Andrew has been really helpful.
"Charlotte's been with me for a lot of my sport horses. She's quite passionate about improving horses and we've been able to do that and move them along. She's been a big part of my journey with horses.
"We were super excited to get that first win but I was glad we didn't cut any corners to get there. I really wanted to have him ready to go for that first start rather than just giving him a first start with a view to learning from there."
Mitchell has four in work and could have all four racing at Timaru on June 11, the next start for Authority a Rating 65 1600m race on the same day that Bella Dora will step up to 1600m in another maiden race.
"No matter what the result is, I'm going to give Authority a freshen up after that and save him for the spring," Mitchell said.
"After Friday, everyone was saying he loves the wet track but I said: 'No he doesn't'. He just tries so hard but he'll be better in the spring when the tracks are firmer.
"I'm just loving it. I love educating horses and getting them going so it would be cool to hopefully find a few diamonds in the rough and seeing how we can improve them.
"We live on a quiet road and all of them go hacking down the road. We go to the beach and forest once a week. We jump them and give them a huge variety in their work and that keeps them fresh and happy and wanting to do their job."