Murray Baker will saddle up three horses for tomorrow's $70,000 Eagle Technology Stakes at Ellerslie and can give you a for-and-against for each of them.
Baker and training partner Andrew Forsman would appear to have a strong hand in the feature with St Emilion, Mime and newcomer to top ranks in Coldplay, but the stable is not over confident with any member of the trio, although they are not discounting the possibility of success.
"St Emilion is dropping back to 1600m from 2000m. He's won three 1600m races, but he's a stayer these days and the reason he's in is because he's started to weigh himself of handicap and the conditions of this race [set weights and penalties] allows him in at 56kg," said Baker.
"It's nearly a month since he has raced and we need to give him a start or two because we'd probably like to have a crack at the Zabeel Classic at the end of December."
Mime gets in nicely with 54kg after the stable was shocked at the rise in rating she copped for finishing second at Kawi at Hastings.
The stable rejects any claim the classy mare pulled up with sore shins after a beaten run at Tauranga last start.
"We are at a loss to know what happened at Tauranga," says Baker, "but we had her gone right over and there is nothing wrong with her shins."
Mime has not won at this 1600m distance, but Baker does not discount a winning performance and was particularly encouraged to know rain is forecast for Auckland today, clearing for tomorrow.
"She probably needs a little give in the ground and possibly a little further than the 1600m, but rain would help both those issues."
Baker says he's very keen to see how Coldplay measures up to the top grades. "We think she's a fairly smart mare and she had a lot of back luck as a 3-year-old last season."
Even though it was just a R75 race Coldplay resumed in at Ellerslie on October 22, it was a strong line-up and the mare won with real authority. "She could go a surprisingly good race."
Benzini is making a unscheduled appearance after getting a late invitation call to represent New Zealand in the 2400m Hong Kong Bowl in mid-December.
It is the intention of his connections to return to the lower North Island after tomorrow's race then fly out to Hong Kong a week later.
Benzini finished strongly into second behind St Emilion in the 2000m weight for age on Melbourne Cup Day and with his tendency to drift back early, may find the 1600m a touch short.
This is a bit better field that Trojan Warrior beat at Tauranga last start, but he lumped 60kg that day and drops here to 55kg. He is expected to have his best campaign currently and deserves respect, as does another last-start winner Ronchi.
Well-performed maiden 3-year-old Hello M'Lady is overdue to take a winning trick and she has a couple of factors in her favour when seeking that elusive victory at Otaki today.
She is used to keeping black type company and the mile won't hold any fears for her either in the Lucia Valentina Wellington Stakes.
"She deserves to get one and I hope it's at Otaki," part-owner and trainer Vicki Prendergast said.
Hello M'Lady has placed in seven of her eight starts, including a runner-up finish in the Bonecrusher Stakes and a third in the Wanganui Guineas, and most recently she finished fourth over 1600m at Ellerslie.
"She was a bit disappointing last time, but the track didn't really suit her," Prendergast said. "We were expecting rain and it didn't come.
"I think she's right back in it now and she turned in a beautiful gallop on Tuesday."
Her connections are also keen on a Wellfield New Zealand Oaks preparation for the daughter of Shocking, who they believe will have no trouble coping with middle distances.
"We plan to race her over Christmas and the New Year so she will need a break at some stage," Prendergast said yesterday.
• Stay in the team: Hiflyer (R5, Ellerslie). Backed and beaten when resuming, but faced a tough task and was just topped off. Better placed here.
• Could be very good: Lizzie L'Amour (R4, Ellerslie). Drawn a
shocker, but might be able to drop back and swoop.
• Value: Mr Knowitall (R3 Ellerslie). Mixing his form, but well up to winning this.
- additional reporting, NZ Racing Desk.