Even if he's a run short of peak fitness himself, top apprentice Jason Collett is aboard the perfect horse for a winning return to race riding at Pukekohe today.
At his first appearance since a nasty fall at Tauranga in December, Collett teams with promising stable filly Manhattan Mam in race one, the R65 2100m.
After her late-closing sixth in the New Zealand Oaks at Trentham on March 17 a win back in this grade should be a formality.
Proven in rain-affected ground, the Richard Collett-trained Manhattan Mam also looks the safest bank-builder for Pick6 punters.
Andrew Calder is another back in the saddle today after a year-long stint in Macau.
His only confirmed ride yesterday was aboard the Roger James-trained debutante Poised in leg three.
Leg One: The promising Corporal Lance is straight out of maiden company, but can continue on his unbeaten way. He impressed winning narrowly but with authority on a slow Tauranga on January 2. Phillip Turner's 2kg allowance guarantees he'll be competitive again if in a similar mood. Beyond All Doubt also makes a fresh start but has the ability to threaten in this type of race.
He impressed in quitting maiden company second-up when last tried in the spring. Handsome As could be the value runner in his first race from Denise Venn's stable. He handles rain-affected ground and looked sharp enough running second in an open 1150m Te Awamutu trial on March 22.
Leg Two: Soldier's Leap will relish the step up to 1600m after two warm-ups over shorter trips. In the latest at Te Rapa he copped two bumps en-route yet was still making good ground near the line. Le Nuage also has to be included in multiples after finishing third this course and distance on March 21. She's also proven in the wet. Round out a fairly wide spread with at least Curtain Call and White Lace on the ticket. Curtain Call faded out of contention in a special conditions event last start but was only narrowly beaten on this course in the run before debut. White Lace was making good ground late over 1400m at Pukekohe in February suggesting this trip will also suit.
Leg Three: Unless a first-starter emerges from the wings, Senatorial is close to an anchor based on her eye-catching debut this course and distance on March 21. She would have won if she had worked clear from a pocket in the straight sooner. When she did see daylight she raced a little greenly before getting balanced up again. If the forecast rain arrives she should also be suited.
Leg Four: Go as wide as the budget permits. City Of Troy has to be one of those runners based on limited appearances in his first campaign. They included a first-up fifth this course and distance after an awkward beginning and racing greenly in the straight. Sunline's daughter Sunsett did just enough when third last time out over this course and distance to be a chance again.
Leg Five: The John Sargent-trained Msongari won narrowly but impressively on a heavy Te Awamutu track at the trials on March 22. If she has inherited a fraction of her dam Flying Babe's ability this should be a winning debut. The group-winning mum won six races in her first campaign at 2, including five on the trot. Cellaring was costly when fourth on debut as favourite this course and distance on March 21, but should have learned a lot from the experience. She also raced greenly in the straight that day.
Leg Six: This looks like one of the most competitive races on the day. Orinda is an obvious choice on any serious multiple. She has been costly at times but looks to have come back much stronger this campaign. In her last-start, fresh-up run she was trapped wide the entire trip but fought on bravely for a close fourth to stablemate Spin Doctor at Te Rapa over 1400m on March 17. Value chance Platinum Playboy flopped in the same race but is a lot smarter than that. Bead Of Courage scored at Ellerslie on Derby Day and comes in well at the weights with the 3kg claim for Chris Dell.
Sydney co-trainer John Hawkes says a decision not to run pre-post favourite All Too Hard in the Golden Slipper was made with the blessing of the valuable colt's high-profile owner Nathan Tinkler.
"The bottom line is the owner is happy with the decision we made," said Hawkes. He said All Too Hard would be saved for the group one Sires' Produce Stakes at Randwick on April 14.
"Golden Slippers are very, very tough races. There's a lot of aggression and thrashing and bashing."
Slipper favourite Samaready will have to overcome an outside barrier (11) to win the Rosehill feature on Saturday.
Ashokan the mount of James McDonald has drawn 14. Samaready is the $2.50 favourite, with Pierro firming to $5 ahead of No Looking Back ($8.50) and Epaulette ($9).
McDonald will also ride Scarlett Lady in the BMW Stakes over 2400m.
2010 Melbourne Cup winner Americain heads the 10-strong field which also features the in-form Manighar and Southern Speed.Additional reporting AAPBy James Graham