Cambridge trainer Graeme Thomas is hoping for many happy returns at Ellerslie.
Thomas, who turns 66 today, will saddle group three winner Mangaroa Flo Jo in the Harold Plumley Memorial Mitchelson Cup (2200m) and Century Miss in the Queenstown House 2100m, both mares in the right form to return home as winners.
"I expect them both to go quite well. It would be nice to get them both up on my birthday," Thomas said.
Mangaroa Flo Jo's Mitchelson Cup entry was an after-thought, Thomas having initially decided to turn out the High Chaparral seven-year-old mare for a brief spell after her fast-finishing fifth in last Sunday's Listed Karaka Classic (1600m) at Pukekohe.
"I actually had decided to give her a couple of weeks in the paddock and then get her back for the open mile at Ellerslie on Melbourne Cup day as a lead-up to the Counties Cup," Thomas said.
"But I looked at that field and saw they had left the nominations open. It wasn't strong and was quite light on numbers and I thought the money was there for the taking so decided we'd have a go."
Thomas has changed tack with Mangaroa Flo Jo already this preparation, having decided against running at Hastings two weeks ago as her second-up assignment after a brilliant win in the Interprovincial Challenge (1600m) at New Plymouth resuming last month.
"After Taranaki, my plan had been to run at Hastings in the 2000m open handicap," Thomas said.
"She's won three times second-up going from 1600m to 2000m but when that track was reported as a 'good 2' a week out, we decided against going down. As it turned out the [slow] track would have been perfect for her.
"But she went to Pukekohe last weekend and ran a terrific race. Her sectionals outside the winner were easily the quickest of the race. She can have this race on Saturday and then I'll give her a week off and get her ready for the Counties Cup."
Matt Cameron takes the ride on Mangaroa Flo Jo, while Thomas has engaged Michael Coleman for Century Miss, who finished a luckless fourth at Pukekohe last Sunday in her first run in Rating 65 company following her Tauranga maiden win last month.
A purchase from bloodstock auction website gavelhouse.com, Thomas admitted Century Miss' galloping speed had once been described as akin to running uphill through thick custard, but said he had since developed a good opinion of the Mastercraftsman half-sister to Group performer Volks Lightning as a promising stayer.
- NZ Racing Desk