Champion jockey Opie Bosson has switched to Passing Shot following Xtravagant's shock withdrawal from the $250,000 Telegraph at Trentham.
Xtravagant had been a $4 favourite for Saturday's group one 1200m feature but worked below his best in a track gallop at Matamata yesterday with Bosson in the saddle.
His place at the top of the market has been taken by Railway Stakes winner Start Wondering, who was cut to $4, with Railway runner-up Perfect Fit at $5 and Riccarton mare First Serve at $6. Melbourne sprinter Odyssey Moon was at $7 and the only other contender at single-figure odds. Final acceptances will be taken today.
Xtravagant had been heading to Trentham till his gallop yesterday. "He worked OK without being great," co-trainer Jamie Richards said. "We had a team talk afterwards and decided that his work wasn't good enough to be going to Wellington.
"It's really unfortunate that we're not going to be seeing him but that's racing and a decision on what we do now has yet to be made."
The group one NRM Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa next month, a race Xtravagant won last year, might still be an option for the four-year-old but there must now be a chance that he will be retired to stud without racing again.
The Pentire stallion has failed in three starts in Australia but has been spectacular at his best. He was a runaway winner of both the Two Thousand Guineas and NRM Sprint last term and started a $2.70 favourite for the group one Australian Guineas in Melbourne.
Passing Shot, who has not raced since November 19, was at $41 for the Telegraph yesterday but would be a chance on his best form and Bosson has an excellent record on the horse, with five wins and a second from eight rides.
The Stephen McKee-trained Passing Shot failed in the 2016 Telegraph but won two listed 1200m races last autumn, including the Lightning Handicap (1200m) at Trentham. He was a group three winner over 1200m as a three-year-old and was beaten a nose by Vespa in the Wellington Guineas (1400m).
He was unplaced in five starts in the spring but four of those runs were in Melbourne and he has a good record when fresh.
Start Wondering has gone up 2.5kg as a result of his Railway win but won the Ellerslie feature with ease and is equally adept on left-hand tracks. However, the Railway-Telegraph double has not been achieved in the same year since Bawalaksana won both races in 1999.
While Xtravagant will miss the Telegraph, three-year-old filly Luna Rossa confirmed a start when working well with Telegraph rival Odyssey Moon at Cambridge yesterday.
"She has won on the course and at the distance as a two-year-old and it's a race we've been thinking about for her for a while," Murray Baker, Luna Rossa's co-trainer, said.
"She's a good filly, with plenty of speed and has come up really well. With only 52.5kg on her back, she'll be ready to go."
Luna Rossa also won the group one Sires' Produce Stakes (1400m) last term and was a group two placegetter at the Melbourne spring carnival. She has not raced since being unplaced in Melbourne in October but won a trial this month.
The last three-year-old filly to win the Telegraph was Elabama in 1969 but the race has not been a common target for fillies and King's Chapel (2004), Vinaka (2002) and O'Reilly (1997) have been three-year-old winners in the last 20 years.
Luna Rossa, who shared the fifth line in betting at $12, will be ridden by Matt Cameron, who won the 2016 Telegraph on Aventador.
- NZ Racing Desk