Matt Cameron is looking forward to his reunion with Volkstok'n'barrell on Saturday.
The top rider will partner Volkstok'n'barrell in the Group I Rydges Captain Cook Stakes (1600m) at Trentham, a race that has been weakened by the early defections of Rasa Lila and Hasselhoof.
Rasa Lila required surgery following a colic attack on Monday evening and Hasselhoof, a stablemate of Volkstok'n'barrell, has a minor foot injury.
Cameron won five races on Volkstok'n'barrell during the horse's three-year-old campaign but has not had a race ride on the horse since finishing second in the New Zealand Derby in March 2015.
Volkstok'n'barrell has done most of his racing since then in Australia and conflicting commitments prevented Cameron riding the horse in his three starts in New Zealand last autumn.
Cameron was riding at Matamata when Volkstok'n'barrell won the Group I Haunui Stakes (1600m) at Otaki, ridden by Vinnie Colgan, and Colgan retained the ride when the horse completed a Group I double in the New Zealand Stakes at Ellerslie.
"It's good to be back on him," said Cameron, who was impressed when he rode Volkstok'n'barrell in an exhibition gallop at Ellerslie last weekend. "He surprised me by how well he worked. He's normally pretty blase but he worked really well and felt super. He's still a bit burly and will benefit from the run [at Trentham] but he's a class horse and I expect him to go a good race fresh."
Volkstok'n'barrell, who is trained at Ruakaka by Donna Logan and Chris Gibbs, has not raced since June and a stone bruise forced him to miss a leadup run at Tauranga this month.
However, Gibbs was another to be impressed by the horse's Ellerslie gallop. "He might be a bit more forward than we thought," Gibbs said. "He's a hard horse to get a gauge on because he looks gross all the time.
"But he also looked fat when he won at Otaki and he seems to race well like that. It's a two day trip [to Trentham] from here as well and the trip down will tighten him up a bit more."
Volkstok'n'barrell will be accompanied to Trentham by stablemate In Flight who will be the topweight in the $30,000 rating 85 1100m.
The pair will be the stable's first runners at Trentham since Durham Town finished fourth in the Group I Telegraph in January 2015.
Logan notched her first Trentham feature when El Duce won the 1998 Wellington Guineas and has also won the New Zealand Oaks with Vapour Trail, a Wellington Cup with Zabeat and a NZ St Leger with Ring Of Fire.
Hasselhoof's trip south was abandoned after he pulled a plate and stood on it overnight. "It meant we couldn't get a gallop into him this morning and he doesn't want a long trip down to Wellington if he's not 100 per cent," Gibbs said.
"It will definitely come right but it could take a few days. It's very frustrating because we had been really happy with him. We will have to find another race for him now and it might have put a run in the City Of Auckland Cup in doubt."
Rasa Lila was making encouraging progress yesterday after surgery on Monday night. "It all went well and the outlook is positive at the moment but the next 48 hours will tell," co-trainer Julia Ritchie said.
"We were on to it very quickly and she got wonderful care. She started to go downhill after I had brought her in from the paddock yesterday afternoon. It's a hard pill to swallow because she had been doing so well. She was lengths better than for her last start and I had been so excited [about her immediate prospects]."
- NZ Racing Desk