The group one hopes of Lance O'Sullivan and Andrew Scott today have been boosted by the availability of an internationally successful jockey.
The Matamata trainers will have the benefit of the riding services of the Hong Kong-based Australian Zac Purton to guide two of their feature race hopes at Ellerslie.
Purton has been granted a release by the Hong Kong Jockey Club to partner the exciting youngster Summer Passage in the group one Sistema Stakes. He will also be aboard stablemate Gentil Tonton in the $500,000 Auckland Cup.
"On a day like Saturday you are looking for every edge you can and hopefully Zac can help provide that," Scott said.
Summer Passage holds nominations for upcoming group one two-year-old races in Sydney, which will have helped convince Purton to seek a release to ride at Ellerslie.
But Scott's focus is on today and he's hoping the Snitzel colt can replicate his last-start win in the Reid & Harrison Slipper at Matamata.
"He's really pleasing us with his progression. He had a lot of pressure on him at Matamata, but he responded and cracked on strongly," he said. "He handled the early high speed and kicked on really well. It was really encouraging. He's improved with the run under his belt, but he's going to need every bit of that improvement in this company on Saturday.
"He's got away with soft ground in his track gallops but we all know race day can be a different beast."
Stablemate and race rival Princess Rihanna won her maiden on a rain-affected track before fourth placings in the Eclipse Stakes, the Karaka Million at Ellerslie and the Matamata Breeders' Stakes.
"She's adept on wet ground. Like Summer Passage, she's on the two-week back-up so her fitness levels are high, which they probably need to be considering likely track conditions this weekend," Scott said.
"She's been racing well in good fields and a similar performance will see her competitive for sure."
While Purton will also ride Cup hope Gentil Tonton, it will be Michael Coleman's responsibility to guide the fortunes of Sound Proposition in the Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes.
Scott is also upbeat about the chances of Gentil Tonton.
"This rain is only going to aid his chances. He's fit and the distance won't be a problem," he said.
On Sound Proposition, who ran second to Rising Shot at Cambridge last month, Scott said: "He had a heart fibrillation last start and his run the start before was good. He hasn't raced since Boxing Day, but he trialled well and he's fit. He's an incredibly clean-winded horse, a real athlete, and we believe he'll handle the wet ground."
- NZ Racing Desk