Iain Kennedy has had more than his share of heart-stopping moments in his life, but they will all be pushed into the background if he can star at his local Rotorua meeting on Saturday.
The 47-year-old owner-trainer, who hails from Zimbabwe, will be chasing dual Stakes success this weekend when represented by Endean Rose in the Gr.3 Campbell Infrastructure Rotorua Cup (2200m) and the lightly tried Endean Express in the Gr.3 ISCL Rotorua Stakes (1400m). Both mares are raced by Kennedy in partnership with Andrew Burton and his wife, Linda Hunt.
Endean Rose goes into the Rotorua Cup with a game last-start second behind Mime in the Gr.2 Travis Stakes at Te Rapa, while Endean Express faces a huge climb in class after her last-start win in a Rating 65 event at Matamata.
"The aim this season with Endean Rose was to hopefully get black-type and when she ran second at Te Rapa we felt like we had won it," Kennedy said. "It was huge getting that first black-type.
"She's done well since then, though I'm not overjoyed with the forecast for more rain."
Stablemate Endean Express will get a tilt at stakes company earlier than expected.
"I think a lot of her and she goes in all ground," Kennedy said. "I know we're throwing her in the deep end but I think she can handle it, being on her home track. She has got the goods to earn black-type."
Kennedy is enjoying his most successful season of training, with six wins and 15 placings from his small team.
He rides his horses in work and combines training with running his osteopathic practice in Rotorua and also treating horses.
Kennedy has experienced such highlights as meeting Her Majesty The Queen and grooming polo ponies for Prince Charles during a nine-year stint while studying to be an osteopath in the UK after leaving Zimbabwe because of the unrest.
"I met the Queen when one of the polo ponies I was grooming won best playing pony," Kennedy recalled. "The pony was a Kiwi thoroughbred mare."
Kennedy played polo in Zimbabwe and in Europe and also became involved in hunting and that led to his move to training thoroughbreds in New Zealand. But it hasn't been plain-sailing since he arrived in New Zealand 18 years ago.
He has suffered a series of heart attacks and undergone a quadruple bypass. But through it all he has been able to maintain his involvement in the horses, thanks to his wife, Linda, and friends.
He will never forget the first of those heart attacks. "It happened the same day I got my (NZ owner-trainer's) license," Kennedy said.
And he will never forget his first winner that same year, Dontdyewonderin at Gisborne on November 6, 2011.
"She and Rhythm Keeper were my first runners when they started on the first day of a two-day Gisborne meeting," Kennedy recalled. "She ran third that day then they came out on the second day and ran the quinella."
That highlight will be well and truly overshadowed should Endean Rose and Endean Express shape up on Saturday.