Connections of the Avondale Guineas/NZ Derby rivals were the only ones not cheering when Scott Base turned on one of the runs of the season to win the Karaka 3YO Classic at Ellerslie last start.
It's more than a decent bet they will create the same frowns when Scott Base goes around as favourite for tomorrow's $100,000 Avondale Guineas at Ellerslie.
Co-trainer Jonno Benner is not even slightly worried about the prospect of a rain-affected track. "It won't matter if the rain comes," he said in the post-race interview after the Classic.
The main effect of a wet, and in this case a somewhat sticky surface, is that it can shorten up the long striders and Scott Base and one of the main dangers, Danzdanzdance, are two of those. The pair came from the tail of the field last start and if the track is to be an issue, staying a little handier without changing either racing pattern, would be sensible.
If either or both can manage a grab of the surface they will taken plenty of beating.
"The filly [Danzdanzdance] has done remarkably well since the Karaka Classic," says trainer Chris Gibbs. "Without being certain, I believe she will handle Saturday's track."
The Baker/Forsman stable are of the opinion Mission Hill still has some maturing to do, but with four wins from five career starts already in the bank and with $100,000 available tomorrow and $1 million for the Derby the Teofilo 3-year-old has to be given his chance. Although well short of this class, two of those wins have been scored in slow and heavy conditions, so plenty can be expected.
The same stable has said all along Vin de Dance would be at peak for the Derby and that he would probably need his three lead-up efforts.
This is his third run and it should top him off for the big day, but there was still plenty to like about the way he finished off into sixth, only 2.1 lengths behind Mission Hill at Te Rapa last start. He will be sharper, the 2000m will suit better and rain is no issue. That combination puts him in the frame for some of the money.
Melbourne's Persian Empire is the interesting runner. Everything went wrong for him when he beat only one of the seven rivals at Moonee Valley last start at home and co-trainer Trent Busuttin calls it a complete forgive run. Difficult to line up the 3-year-old form in both countries, but he is at long odds and might surprise a few. The stable make few mistakes.
Mongolianconqueror has been a slow learner, but there is nothing wrong with the way he finds the line late in his races. He should have won last start at Te Rapa and will be finishing with similar zest here.
●Graeme Forbes is currently in Singapore as assistant trainer to Donna Logan's new operation, but he'll be plugged into the internet watching Comin'through contesting tomorrow's $40,000 Westinghouse Nathan's Memorial at Ellerslie.
Forbes has an ownership share in Comin'through, but despite an ample share of ability the rugged stayer never really gets his part owner's confidence. "He's a right enigma, he could play for the Warriors, he's got that sort of attitude." Before anyone gets upset, Forbes remains one of the true Warriors believers and the safest bet all year is that he will watch every Warriors game this upcoming season on the internet from Singapore.
Forbes has been in Singapore for a month and was joined last week by Logan, with the first planeload of horses from New Zealand already in work. Comin'through has a few attributes to suit tomorrow's race. He has a number of times managed a rain affected track well and comes in on a handy 54kg. When he finished third last start in the City Of Auckland Cup he ran a faster last 600m — 34.98 — than the winner Charles Road — 35.18 — and seventh placed favourite Von Tunzelman, who got home in 35.34.
More importantly, Comin'through goes up only 1kg from that run with Charles Road 5.5kg higher to 58.5kg and Von Tunzelman plus 3kg to 60kg.
"One of the worst aspects is the No 1 barrier," says Gibbs. "The race is late in the day and with the track likely to be cut up the inside is probably not going to be the place to be. Also, Alysha Collett hasn't ridden him before and he's a horse you have to get to know. Alysha is a good horsewoman though."
Charles Road, despite the weight increase, is the horse to beat. He has consistently raced well on rain-affected footing and Jake Bayliss has developed a fine working relationship with a horse that has not always been easy to ride. You had to like the way Charles Road finished off under Bayliss to win the City Of Auckland Cup.
It would be unwise to drop Von Tunzelman for his City Of Auckland Cup unplaced run. He dropped to the tail from an awkward mid-field draw and in an on-pace biased race he made useful ground late without threatening. He is a big strong type and the 60kg will not alone be enough to beat him if he gets the right run.
Taranaki's Ladies First has a remarkable record of seven starts on heavy tracks for six wins and a placing. That alone puts her in the reckoning, even if trainer Allan Sharrock was slightly less than delighted with the way she galloped this reverse right-handed way during the week.