Hastings trainer John Bary has elected to stick to his original plan and freshen Callsign Mav for a tilt at the Group 1 $200,000 BCD Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa on February 13 before he steps him up over more ground.
The Atlante 4-year-old produced a herculean effort in lumping 63kg to a convincing win in a 1400m open sprint at Awapuni last Saturday, giving Bary good reason to consider running the horse in the Group 1 $200,000 Thorndon Mile (1600m) at Trentham on January 30.
"I don't like to change plans," Bary said this week.
"We said we would head to that race at Te Rapa so we will go there and then he can run in the Haunui Weight-for-age (1600m) at Otaki at the end of February before we step him up over a middle distance."
Callsign Mav has yet to race beyond 1600m but Bary is targeting the Group 2 $100,000 Awapuni Gold Cup (2000m) at Awapuni on April 3 for his first middle distance test.
Bary is well aware of the capabilities of the Group 1 winning Callsign Mav but even he was pleasantly surprised how dominant the horse was, under such a big weight, when winning at Awapuni last Saturday.
"Relieved is the best way to describe how I feel," Bary said immediately after the success.
"I've said all along that he deserved the topweight, but weight can stop a train. I think he showed that he is a very good horse."
Callsign Mav was chalking up his fifth win and can also boast four seconds and a third from his 14 starts and has amassed $234,000 in stake money.
He is already a Group 1 winner, taking out the weight-for-age Tarzino Trophy (1400m) on the first day of last year's Hawke's Bay spring carnival.
Callsign Mav won by a long neck last Saturday but jockey Jonathan Riddell was far from confident in the mid-stages of the race.
Riddell told Bary that Callsign Mav had trouble negotiating the tight bend into the home straight and it wasn't until he got the horse balanced up in the home straight that he felt comfortable.
"Jonathan told me he had given up at the 600m," Bary said.
"He thought he was no chance as he wasn't travelling at all."
After jumping away well from the barrier Callsign Mav began to drift and was third last coming to the home turn.
Riddell angled him to the outside and it took the horse a while to get balanced up before he produced some giant strides late to get up and beat Times Ticking, with Shadows Cast half a length back in third.
Bary would like to see the bend into the home straight at Awapuni changed so that horses can negotiate it a lot better and not become unbalanced and lose valuable ground.
He is not only the trainer of Callsign Mav but he also shares in the ownership of the gelding.
The horse cost only $3000 at a 2017 mixed bloodstock sale at Karaka and was bought by Victorian-based Jeremy Cross, on behalf of a group of his Australian mates.
Bary had a brief acquaintance with Cross before suddenly getting a ring out of the blue from him, asking whether he would train the horse. He said yes and also agreed to take a small share in him.
Living up to his good breeding
The Rippa, a younger half-brother to former "iron-horse" Authentic Paddy, made a long-awaited return to the winner's stall at Awapuni last Saturday.
The 7-year-old Rip Van Winkle gelding scored a long neck victory in a Rating 74 race over 2100m, his first success since he took out a Rating 65 race over 1400m at Hawera in October 2018.
The Lisa Latta-trained gelding has now won four races from 38 starts for his large group of owners, which include Hastings sisters Marilyn Te Paa and Christine Gray and their Havelock North brother Tony Gray.
The horse was bought off the estate of their late uncle Don Robinson, who bred him and Authentic Paddy out of the Cape Cross mare Authentic Cross.
Authentic Paddy, who was also raced by the three Gray siblings, raced 101 times for 11 wins and 35 minor placings and amassed more than $780,000 in stake money.
After being Group 1 placed on numerous occasions the Howbaddouwantit gelding finally broke through for a victory at the elite level when taking out the 2017 Zabeel Classic (2000m) at Ellerslie.
The Rippa got back beyond midfield in the early stages of last Saturday's race and was still a long way off the leaders passing the 600m.
Rider Wiremu Pinn then started to send the big horse forward and he ranged up as the widest runner rounding the home turn. He then kept up a strong run and fought a head to head tussle with Cabochon over the final stages before getting his neck in front on the line.
Strong HB attack at Trentham
Hastings stables look well represented at today's first day of the Wellington Cup meeting at Trentham.
The centre has eight horses entered over the nine-race programme and most of them look to be definite each-way chances.
The Hastings assault is headed by the talented 3-year-old Basarwa, who lines up in the feature race, the Group 1 $225,000 Devan Plastics Levin Classic.
Co-trainer Guy Lowry reckons the Atlante gelding is in the best condition he could possibly have him going into the 1600m event.
Lowry, who trains in partnership with Grant Cullen, has produced Basarwa for a debut win over 1200m at Hastings in November and a last start second behind race-rival Invisible Spirit over 1400m at Trentham.
"I'm happy with him," Lowry said.
"He had a 1000-metre jumpout at Hastings last week where he was only just beaten and hit the line hard so he's fit enough. I'm as happy with him now as I was when he won his first race and when he ran second at his second start.
"He's been aimed at this and I know they have all probably been aimed for it but this has been his target race since day one and he's ready to give a good account of himself."
Bred and raced by Wellington's Lib Petagna and the Perry Family Trust, Basarwa will be out to emulate his sire Atlante as a Group 1 winning three-year-old over 1600m in the same Petagna colours.
"Basarwa is still a green and raw horse but I've got no doubt the mile will suit him better than 1400m. He was flat-footed when they quickened at Trentham last start."
TAB bookmakers have Basarwa as a $26 outsider in the Levin Classic market with Brando a $1.75 favourite ahead of Whimsical at $4.80.
The Lowry/Cullen stable will open the day with a good chance in the opening event in Can I Get An Amen, with the John Bary-trained Hugo The Boss also entered for the race.
Can I Get An Amen has not had much luck in four starts since winning over 1400m at the Hawke's Bay spring carnival, including when going down by only a head over 1400m at Rotorua last start after working hard outside the leader in the running.
On Show was another who was caught wide in the running when fourth over 1200m at Awapuni last start and the John Bary-trained mare gets a chance to show her best in race three. She is a past winner on the Trentham track.
The Bary-trained Motivation will be out to cap off some excellent recent minor placings when she lines up in race five, the Group 3 $70,000 Anniversary Handicap (1600m). The Mastercraftsman gelding carried 59.5kg when a close last start second over 1300m at Hastings and drops 6kg in the weights here.
Hastings will have a two-pronged attack on race seven, the Group 3 $70,000 Trentham Stakes, with the in-form pair of Hunta Pence and Mohaka entered for the 2100m event.
The Patrick Campbell-trained Hunta Pence will be shooting for his third win in a row after victories in the Wanganui Cup (2040m) and Manawatu Cup (2300m) at his last two starts. He has the advantage of the number one barrier and is another past winner on the Trentham track.
Mohaka is coming off a last start second in the Taupo Cup (2000m) and co-trainer Guy Lowry is confident she will acquit herself well again.
"At the weights Mohaka is in nicely and I can't fault her. There looks to be good speed in the race and that will suit her. She's in a really good mental state and she should go well," he said.
The Lowry/Cullen stable also has Bellesgirl entered for the final race, the 1600m Rating 65 event, and although her latest form doesn't look that great on paper, she is another who hasn't had much luck. She covered a huge amount of extra ground in the running when eighth over 1400m at Otaki last start.