Not even the worst possible draw has been enough to shorten Gingernuts at the head of the market for Saturdays $250,000 Livamol feature race at Hastings.
The New Zealand Derby winner was never going to be replaced as favourite for the 2040m group one but after drawing the extreme outside barrier he could have been expected to at least drift in the market.
But, remarkably, the TAB bookies opened him the $1.95 final field favourite once the line-up for New Zealands spring weight-for-age championship was released.
Gingernuts deserves a short quote - probably not that short - after a brave last-start win in the Windsor Park Plate and he should appreciate the step up to the 2040m, especially with some of the key players from that race, Kawi and Volpe Veloce, not in Saturdays line-up.
But the reality is Gingernuts is going to need to be clearly better than his rivals if he is to win what is likely to be his final lead-up to the Caulfield Cup on October 22.
Although the draw is against Gingernuts key rivals VolkstocknBarrell (nine) and the favourites stablemate Chance To Dance (barrier six) have fared much better although the late entry Close Up, one of the finds of the Hawkes Bay carnival, has had no joy drawing wide at 14.
Meanwhile, the connections of Nymph Monte say he has gone from being a boy to a man and he is ready to prove it on the big stage on Saturday.
The Tavistock six-year-old will take on the big names in the Livamol in his third weight-for-age start over ground.
His first two weight-for-age 2000 metre starts were in the Herbie Dyke Stakes where he finished unplaced in both races.
But his Opaki trainer and part-owner Grant Nicholson believes hes a different horse this time around.
Hes a lot stronger and mentally hes improved so much, Nicholson said. Last year he used to reef and pull and drop the bit.
Even in his day-to-day manner, this time in hes better. Hes not being a big kid. Hes relaxed and just getting on with it all.
Despite his immaturity, Nymph Monte managed to fashion a good record by the end of his last campaign, taking his record to eight wins and seven placings from 34 starts.
His performances included back-to-back wins in last years Christchurch Casino Spring Classic (2000m) and Gold Club Metropolitan Trophy (2500m), both at Riccarton, before over-racing yet still finishing fifth in the group three New Zealand Cup (3200m). He later picked up a fifth in the Avondale Gold Cup (2200m).
Nicholson has given Nymph Monte three starts this campaign and there has been improvement with each outing. He was fourth fresh-up over 1400m behind Dolcetto at Tauherenikau in August then filled the same placing behind Wait A Sec over 1600m on the first day of the Hawkes Bay Carnival.
Stepping up to a more suitable 2000m on the second day at Hastings, Nymph Monte sealed his tilt at the Livamol Classic when easily beating group one performer Authentic Paddy and Wait A Sec in the open handicap. His efforts have also pleased rider Rosie Myers, who has been his regular jockey this season and will again be in the saddle on Saturday.
Im happy, his preparation has gone well, Nicholson said. He worked well [on Tuesday] and hes ready for Saturday.
Weve been focused on getting him to this one and hes ready to go a big race.
Hell be strong on the line, but its going to be tough. There are some very good horses in it.
While Gingernuts is all the rage after his win in the group one Windsor Park Plate, Nicholson also has the utmost respect for Volkstoknbarrell.
Volkstoknbarrell is the forgotten horse, he said.
Hes a multiple group one winner and he went a top race on the second day of the Hawkes Bay carnival, said Nicholson.
- additional reporting, NZ Racing Desk