Hopes for a successful return to racing from Hard Merchandize on his home turf today were significantly boosted during the week.
The Burgundy gelding impressed during his two-year-old campaign last term and he will open his classic season in the Agricom Handicap (1200m) at Awapuni.
"I thought before his final gallop that if he could run in the first three I would be happy," part-owner and trainer Gary Vile said.
"After that gallop, which was very, very good, he's ready to give them all something to think about." Hard Merchandize won three juvenile races, including the Listed Castletown Stakes (1200m), finished third at Trentham and fifth in the Gr.1 Manawatu Sires' Produce Stakes (1400m).
He was ridden in all his starts by Hayden Tinsley, but today Vile has opted to engage apprentice Timothy Johnson who can claim two kilos.
"He'll carry 53kg, which is a competitive weight and with three weeks to the Hawke's Bay Guineas the timing is really good," he said.
Vile will also produce another fresh runner in Slimline, who tackles the Gr.3 Boehringer Ingelheim Metric Mile (1550m).
"She's had two trials and won them both impressively," he said. "It's the best field she has ever met and I would have liked her more on a slow track. The heavy going does worry me, but she deserves her chance."
Slimline was in fine form during her autumn campaign with two wins, one in the Listed Manawatu Anzac (1550m), and she also finished runner-up in the Listed Rangitikei Gold Cup (1600m).
- NZ Racing Desk