Laxon loving life at home

Melbourne Cup queen Sheila Laxon is on the verge of a return to the New Zealand trainers' ranks.

Laxon has returned to Maungatautari in Waikato, the property from where she prepared Ethereal to win the 2001 Caulfield and Melbourne Cups double.

Laxon has been training four horses for Ethereal's co-breeder and co-owner Sir Peter Vela, two two-year-olds and two older horses, in preparation for her New Zealand trainer's licence to be approved.

She was relishing the prospect of training in familiar territory and said returning to Maungatautari felt like she was back home.

"This is the best place in the world. It really is," she said. "Honestly, I've been to a lot of places but it feels like I've got out of jail coming back here. It's a beautiful, beautiful place and it's so peaceful. I've got everything here I could ever want. You want for nothing here."

Laxon shifted to Victoria soon after Ethereal's Cups wins and went into a training partnership with John Symons.

Welsh-born Laxon remains in that training partnership, but intends basing herself in the Waikato from now on.

She has endured a taxing time in Australia, including a near miss with a bushfire coming "up to our back door step" and a fallout with the stable's biggest owners which led to an unproductive period for the racing team.

"I feel I've done my time there," Laxon said of her stint in Australia.

Laxon returned to Maungatautari to spend Christmas with her two adult children and said she immediately reconnected with the family farm and training establishment, prompting her shift home.

One of the first things Laxon did on her return was to get reacquainted with her Melbourne Cup heroine Ethereal.

The pair were even subjects of a photo shoot for internationally recognised Cambridge photographer Spiros Poros.

"I don't think there will ever be another one like her," Laxon said. "It was just an amazing thing that happened with Ethereal. But I've got four in work for Peter and we'll try and do our best to find another one like her. One advantage we have is access to this amazing training facility at Maungatautari.

"When you look at the [Melbourne] Cup history of what has come off this place, it's amazing. The work you can do here really builds them up to be tough staying horses - and then it all comes down to whether the horse has got it. But not many have what Ethereal did."

Laxon, who was made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2002 for her services to racing, will continue to be an ambassador for the Melbourne Cup as it suits her training schedule in New Zealand.

- Aidan Rodley,NZ Racing Desk