Murray Baker is putting his trust in youth. Baker and his training partner Andrew Forsman have 10 acceptors at the premier meeting at Te Rapa on Saturday with all bar two aged three or under.
Five of the seven three-year-olds in the Te Rapa team will be spread over the three group races on the programme.
New Zealand Derby entrant Jon Snow will contest the $400,000 Group 1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) and his stablemates Saracino and Luna Rossa take on the the leading sprinters at weight-for-age in the Group 1 NRM Stakes (1400m).
Nicoletta and Bonneval will be competing against their own age group when they come up against the unbeaten Volpe Veloce in the Group 2 Sir Tristram Classic (2000m), a race Baker and Forsman won last year, with Mime.
Mongolian Legend, another potential Derby contender, runs in the rating 65 2100m and Break My Stride is an obvious chance in the rating 75 1400m.
The Baker-Forsman stable also has Saint Emilion in the Herbie Dyke Stakes and will have a Group 1 runner in Australia on Saturday, when Turn Me Loose takes a quality field in the $500,000 Orr Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield.
Jon Snow needs to run well on Saturday to justify a Derby tilt but has been close up in good three-year-old company at his last three starts. He has an inside barrier and can settle on the pace. "He's got to get the trip but has stuck on well in his last three runs," Baker said.
Saint Emilion has been freshened since failing to back up when unplaced in the City Of Auckland Cup (2400m). He had finished fourth in the Zabeel Classic at his previous start and his chances would be improved if the forecast rain arrived on tonight.
Lisa Allpress will partner Saracino who would rate highly on his best form. Saracino disappointed when resuming at Pukekohe but won a Group 2 three-year-old 1200m race at the Melbourne spring carnival and was beaten only two lengths when sixth in the Caulfield Guineas (1600m).
Luna Rossa, another who raced in Melbourne in the spring, failed when resuming in the Telegraph (1200m) at Trentham but 1400m is probably her best distance.
Nicoletta won the Desert Gold Stakes at her last start, with Bonneval third, and Baker expects both fillies to run well at Te Rapa. "Volpe Veloce will be hard to beat but our two are good fillies and should be in the hunt. Nicoletta is determined and tough and Bonneval was unlucky at Trentham."
Turn Me Loose failed over 1200m at Moonee Valley when resuming but has a good record second-up and has drawn well. "He's starting to look like a 1600m horse but they run the races a bit differently at Caulfield [compared to Moonee Valley] and that will help him," Baker said.
Recent history suggests that punters should respect the three-year-old runners in the weight-for-age races at Te Rapa, particularly in the Herbie Dyke.
Savile Row is the other three-year-old in the Herbie Dyke this year and Heroic Valour will join Baker's pair in the NRM Sprint. Just eight three-year-olds have contested the Herbie Dyke over the past decade and the return has been two wins, a second and a third.
The filly Valley Girl won at double-figure odds last year and Mission Critical paid $13.20 in 2008.
Savile Row shortened to $3.70 when the Herbie Dyke final field market opened yesterday, with Consensus at $4.50, Volkstok'n'barrell at $5.50 and Jon Snow at $6.80.
Kawi, a five-time Group 1 winner, opened as a $3.90 favourite for the NRM, ahead of Start Wondering at $5 and Perfect Fit at $6.20.
Heroic Valour was at $8.50 and Saracino at $9.50.
Herbie Dyke Stakes, G1
$400,000, WFA, 2000m
1 0x624 Volkstok'n'barrell d (3) 59
2 42327 Authentic Paddy dm (5) 59
3 71440 Saint Emilion td (9) 59 - D Johnson
4 11500 Nymph Monte td (11) 59
5 71091 Trojan Warrior td (8) 59 - C Lammas
6 12466 Ronchi tmb (2) 59 -
7 30211 Consensus d (4) 57 -
8 31783 Abidewithme td (7) 57- M McNab
9 52553 Promise To Reign t (10) 57- L Innes
10 63212 Savile Row mb (6) 54 - M Coleman
11 89333 Jon Snow (1) 54 - M Cameron
NRM Sprint, G1
$200,000, WFA, 1400m
1 11464 Kawi d (5) 59
2 x1912 Start Wondering tm (1) 59 - J Parkes
3 02521 Signify d (4) 59 - R Cuneen (a)
4 5x414 Natuzzi td (2) 59
5 26x36 Mighty Solomon d (6) 59
6 126x3 Watch This Space tdm (10) 59
7 5x223 Packing Tycoon td (3) 59 - J Waddell
8 94187 Brighton d (11) 59 - L Innes
9 0x323 Perfect Fit db (13) 57 - M Coleman
10 x090x Sofia Rosa (8) 57 - D Johnson
11 568x4 Saracino tb (7) 55.5 - L Allpress
12 32322 Heroic Valour (9) 55.5 - M McNab
13 286x0 Luna Rossa dm (12) 53.5 - M Cameron