Tony Pike will have both quality and quantity on his side at Ellerslie on Sunday.
The Cambridge trainer expects to have a runner in every race at the high profile twilight meeting, including leading prospects for the three richest races on the programme.
Sacred Elixir will resume in the $250,000 Karaka Mile, his unbeaten stablemate Felton Road is equal favourite for the $1 million Karaka Million (1200m) and Chenille and Sacred Shot will be rivals in the $100,000 Windsor Park Karaka Stayers Cup (2200m).
Pike's other runners on the six-race programme, which has minimum stakes of $50,000, will be Needlepoint (special conditions maiden 1600m) and the unbeaten pair of Sacred Rhythm (special conditions maiden 1400m) and Fast And Furious (special conditions maiden 1200m).
Sacred Elixir's return might rival the Karaka Million as the high point of the evening.
The star three-year-old has not raced in New Zealand since finishing sixth in the Karaka Million at the corresponding meeting last summer.
He was a youngster of high promise when he left for richer opportunities in Australia and returns to action as a million dollar earner and a $5 favourite for the $1 million Vodafone New Zealand Derby at Ellerslie on March 4.
Sacred Elixir has not raced since finishing second, as a $2.70 favourite, in the Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington on October 29.
He will be the horse to beat on Sunday, though he might be susceptible against more seasoned rivals.
"It's going to be a small but very select field," Pike said.
"We are really happy with him [Sacred Elixir] but he will be vulnerable first-up.
"He's forward enough and looks fantastic but is not going to be fully wound up by any means.
"But he's a naturally clean-winded horse and has got plenty of residual fitness from his Melbourne campaign.
"His form looks as strong as that for any three-year-old we have had [in New Zealand] for a while."
Sacred Elixir was also able to win a group three 1400m fresh-up at the Melbourne spring carnival. Leith Innes rode Sacred Elixir in his three New Zealand starts last term and will retain the mount for at least the horse's next three starts.
"Ellerslie is a unique course and Leith is one of the best jockeys around Ellerslie," Pike said.
The Karaka Mile will be the first of two lead-up races to the New Zealand Derby for Sacred Elixir, with his second assignment being either the weight-for-age Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) at Te Rapa on February 11 or the Avondale Guineas (2100m) at Ellerslie a week later.
His rivals on Sunday will include unbeaten filly Volpe Veloce, the group one performers Heroic Valour and Jon Snow and the promising youngsters Swissta, Romancer and Stephenstihls.
Felton Road has overcome wide barriers to remain unbeaten after two starts, both at Ellerslie, and shares favouritism for the Karaka Million with the Eclipse Stakes winner Hasahalo.
"He's a smart horse with a great attitude and has been very strong at the finish in both his races," Pike said. "He probably shouldn't have won his first start with the run he got."
Felton Road was the cheapest of the Karaka Million runners, costing just $20,000 from the select session at Karaka. The Pins colt is now raced by a syndicate that includes a group of Pike's golfing mates.
Sacred Elixir and Felton Road were also among a small group of horses who were scheduled to work on the course proper at Ellerslie early this morning.
"The trip up [to Ellerslie] will do them good and they won't need to work again before Sunday," Pike said.
At least five Australian jockeys will have mounts in the Karaka Million. Blake Shinn will partner Hasahalo with Hugh Bowman riding the impressive Trentham winner Padraig.
Craig Williams rides Princess Rihanna with Jay Ford on the Sydney filly Te Amo and Robert Thompson on Queensland contender Ameridon.
?Roger James is favouring Ellerslie as the venue for the next appearance of his smart debut winner Monrecour. The Cambridge trainer has accepted for today's NZB Insurance Pearl Series Race at Avondale, but Sunday is his preferred option.
If Monrecour bypasses Avondale, I Am Gracie will firm in favour as the race will represent a major step back in class for the filly. Meanwhile, James is expecting improvement from Pythagoras when he steps out in today's AJC Members' Maiden.
- NZ Racing Desk