Stolen Dance has been pipped twice but if she gets a chance to eyeball Kawi the result could be different

The current score is Kawi 2, Stolen Dance 0. On the basis of three strikes and you're out, if Kawi wins tomorrow's $300,000 Herbie Dyke Stakes at Te Rapa, Stolen Dance's trainer David Greene will tap the mat.

But there is a condition. Kawi has been truly magnificent in winning, in consecutive starts, the group one Zabeel Classic at Ellerslie and Trentham's group one Thorndon Mile.

Stolen Dance has been a head and a long neck behind in second place in each feature and has not been allowed to do the one thing the emerging Te Rapa trainer is certain in the back of his mind can turn the tables - eyeball Kawi in the closing stages.

In the Zabeel, Stolen Dance was second last at the 1000m with Kawi behind her, only to arrive at the home bend with Leith Innes having pinched more than one length ahead, a margin which diminished late, but remained a margin nonetheless.


At Trentham last start Kawi began swifter than usual and sat fourth in running with Stolen Dance two and a half lengths behind buried just beyond mid-field. From that point there was never going to be a chance to eyeball the favourite.

"I don't mind what else happens, I just want to see my mare eyeball Kawi, whether that's at the 300m, 200m or the 100m. If that happens I know our girl won't flinch.

"If they get to eyeball and Kawi wins we will be the first to put our hands in the air and congratulate the Kawi team as having the better horse." That's sportsmanship at its best and what racing at the elite level is all about.

For all that late in the race will be important, much could be decided in the first five strides. Kawi has never been a brilliant beginner, although experience has more lately helped him in that area and his march out of the Trentham stalls last start was impressive by his standards.

Stolen Dance began what is still a young career by bouncing clear of the barrier and either leading or sitting outside the leader. To Greene's disappointment she has more recently been very tardy in the barriers and lost valuable ground in the first 120m.

"I have no idea why she's developed this terrible habit," says her trainer.

Stolen Dance will have a change of rider this time. Sam Spratt rode the mare to win the Cal Isuzu Stakes on this track three starts back, but in both the subsequent group ones Danielle Johnson has been aboard. With Johnson this time required for Vavasour, Spratt climbs back in the raceday saddle.

"Sammy's your girl for getting them out of the barriers, so let's hope she can do it this time," says Greene.

"If you're slow away in these sorts of races, all you can do is sit back and weigh up your options."

A nine-horse field goes around tomorrow, but when original nominations were taken on Tuesday, the field was just the four main runners, Soriano, Vavasour, Kawi and Stolen Dance, which would have proved a remarkable sight, but small numbers can tactically skew a result.

Vavasour, class mare though she is, has been trained for the 3200m of the Auckland Cup and as such is at a disadvantage against the two favourites, who meet her on their terms. She won't be out of the ball park, though, and neither will last year's winner, Soriano.

Weekend pointers


Blue Flag, R1, Te Rapa. Just topped off last time and looks ready to post a victory.

Place bet for the ages: Sacred Star, Race 8, Te Rapa. Class act who won this well last year and has come up at $1.70 for the place. Ideal for multiples.

Value: Emily Monk, R7, Te Rapa. Mare on the up and can throw in a big race fresh.