Racing: Kiwis ready to feature at Caulfield

By Mike Dillon

Leading cup contenders Provocative, Sofia Rosa take their first steps on the way to Melbourne riches.
High-class mare Provocative looks a sound each-way chance at Caulfield today, when she kicks off her spring campaign. Picture / Race Images
High-class mare Provocative looks a sound each-way chance at Caulfield today, when she kicks off her spring campaign. Picture / Race Images

The first five overs of what could be a innings win for New Zealand against Australia this spring happens in Melbourne this afternoon.

Technically, Tavago is trained in Melbourne, but trainers Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young moved across from Cambridge only three weeks ago, so we'll claim at least the first few starts from the new home of the Australian Derby winner.

Provocative and Sofia Rosa will go close today. Provocative takes on the 1700m A$120,000 Heatherlie Handicap and Sofia Rosa goes around against some guns in the A$500,000 NZ Bloodstock Memsie Stakes.

Tony Pike has no concerns about Provocative tackling 1700m at her first start since winning the Queensland Oaks.

"She had only three weeks out after the Oaks and didn't lose any real fitness. She's a clean-winded horse and I have no concerns."

More of a worry for Pike is the first experience of the turning Caulfield track and the wide (12) barrier draw.

"She's going to have to go back from that gate and she will need at least some luck."

The Caulfield home turn does not have the camber of the other Melbourne courses and is difficult to sprint around. Compounding that is a short run to the winning post. But Damien Oliver's monumental Melbourne experience is going to be a large assist.

"I'm very happy with her progress here in Melbourne. This is only the first run of her campaign and as long as she's hitting the line hard I will be happy," says Pike.

Sofia Rosa is likely to find the 1400m of the Memsie Stakes more suitable than Tavago, but stayers can run a big 1400m when fresh.

"Probably her coat still has a fraction of turning to do, but she's very well and I'm more than happy," said trainer Stephen Marsh.

Sofia Rosa is such a warrior of a horse - she might have a crappy personality, but that's what the opposition has to deal with on raceday. Don't forget Sunline won a dozen million dollars with the same demeanour.

Melbourne-based Michael Walker has the Sofia Rosa mount and should suit the mare.

However, this will be no easy task. The hot favourite is the Darren Weir-trained Black Hart Bart, winner of the Goodwood at Morphettville two starts back, then just topped off in Queensland's premier race, the Stradbroke.

Sofia Rosa was late yesterday at what looked a lucrative $14, appearing to be a sound each-way prospect.

A couple of former New Zealanders go around on the programme. Rising Romance is in the Memsie and The Justice League, formerly with Nigel Tiley and now with Darren Weir, has a Benchmark 78 race. Jordan Childs' 1.5kg claim will reduce his weight to 60.5kg.

- NZ Herald

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