Five To Midnight has a chance to become a group one winner ahead of time at Ellerslie on Saturday.
The well-performed Awapuni stayer isn't at the peak of his powers just yet, but he's close enough to be among the leading chances in the Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup.
"He's still six months off his best," trainer Lisa Latta said. "He's come a long way in a short time and he just keeps improving."
Most recently he was fourth in the Avondale Cup.
"I don't think the two miles will bother him on Saturday," Latta said. "He just lobs along and doesn't pull. Danielle Johnson will ride him."
She will don the colours of owners Kamada Racing, as will Rosie Myers who will ride stablemate King Kamada. Runner-up in the 2015 Cup and sixth last year, King Kamada again showed his liking for Ellerslie when a solid last-start third in the Nathans Memorial.
"That was more like his old self," Latta said. "His best runs have all been that way around."
The third member of her Ellerslie-bound trio this weekend is Authentic Paddy, a multiple top-flight placegetter who will appreciate the step up to 2000 metres in the group one Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes.
He was sixth in his latest appearance in the Haunui Farm Classic.
"The mile is too sharp for him now, but he's come through the race very well and he looks fantastic," Latta said.
- NZ Racing Desk