Jumpers essentially having their first run this year will make Te Rapa a tough assignment today.
But Ngatira Gold in Race 2 looked very good in his jumping last winter and should be difficult to beat.
Balham (No5, R3) has been knocking on the door and it could well burst open this afternoon. He can finish off okay. Victory Drive (No7) got back to his best here last week and this does not look any stronger.
Kevin Myers is one to follow from here on and he rates highly with Palermo (No4, R4). He's had a flat race and a barrier trial to fit him for this. Zardetto (No2) looks a real danger and Mendoza (No9) is in for a big campaign.
Persuasive (No2, R5) suggested a close up win when she finished a close fifth on this track last start. She has been given time to recover from that and from a good barrier should get the right run and a 2kg allowance is another plus. Selfie (No3) will be favourite and a must for multiple bettors with Ohope Prince (No1) the best value runner.
The Waikato Equine Veterinary Centre Stakes for the juveniles is the toughest race on the card. Not Usual Trip (No4, R6) was very stylish in his winning debut at Ellerslie, making all the running and forging clear. Ardrossan (No2) was similar in winning at Pukekohe. They have the No 1 and No 2 barriers and that may be very important. Gold Fever (No6) and Santuzza (No7) have more awkward barriers, but rate highly. Probably the race of the day.
Zanyetta (No11, R7) looks to have a future. It's not easy to go straight from maidens to R65, but it's not impossible either and from a nice gate Zanyetta will give it a good shot. Street Smart (No2) got back last when resuming at Ellerslie and made good ground late to finish only two lengths from the winner. He is very quickly going to require a middle distance but may be fresh enough for this 1600m.
Race 8 is interesting. You've got Adriatic Pearl (No8) a dashing last start winner who might just be ready to continue on with that. She looked very good a year or so back, but struck an issue and her form slumped a little. Also Keely Be (No9) who missed out in the luck department at Ellerslie. Don't judge her here, rather on her winning run two starts back. First Honour (No4) could be the giant killer. He has a great record when racing fresh and last raced in February. He looks very good at times.
Tellyawhat (No3, R9) has limited experience, but shows plenty of potential. His fresh record is also very sharp and he last raced in December. Command Royale (No2) has a lot of ability.
Ringo (No2, R8) at Riccarton looks a good bet. His fresh record is remarkable and he has been set for this race. Hayden Tinsley will do a good job.
Dashing juvenile filly Prom Queen has made her mark at Riccarton this season and her connections are keen on a group one return to the South Island's principal track next term.
She is unbeaten in four appearances on the Christchurch course, including the listed Welcome Stakes, and co-trainer Kenny Rae sees no reason why she won't cope with a mile as a three-year-old in the New Zealand 1000 Guineas.
"She's got a lot of improvement in her and I've said all along the Guineas will be the target for her," said Rae, who prepares the youngster with his wife Lisa and their daughter Krystal Williams. "We never have to slow her down in her work and she goes along at whatever speed you want.
"She's got a five-year-old's attitude - she doesn't care about anything."
Prom Queen's first preparation is almost certain to conclude with an appearance in today's Champagne Stakes, again at Riccarton.
"I'll probably give her a spell after that - people have said go to Australia and if she won very impressively we may think about that, but I don't want to be greedy," Rae said.
Beaten only once in five starts, the daughter of Super Easy gave her rivals a thumping at her most recent start.
"She may have only beaten small fields, but it takes a good horse to win by nine and a half lengths - I was speechless after that," Rae said.
"She's really smart and I don't know how good she really is yet.
"She's only 14 hands, she's a midget and there's still improvement to come."
- Additional reporting NZ Racing Desk