The Group 3 $70,000 Hawke's Bay Breeders Gold Trail Stakes on September 23 is shaping as one of the most interesting races at this year's Bostock Hawke's Bay spring carnival.
The 1200m event, the first race in the New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year series, has drawn excellent fields in the past but this year's running is likely to attract most of the cream of the new season 3-year-old fillies.
John Morell, the owner-trainer of the dashing 2-year-old Florence Jean, has stated he will be aiming the daughter of Pins for the Gold Trail Stakes on the middle day of the carnival and may even give her a run in the $20,000 El Roca Three-year-old (1200m) when the carnival begins on September 3.
"We'll see what happens, but we will be looking at those races," Morell said after Florence Jean trounced her rivals by 6 lengths in a 1000m 2-year-old race at Ruakaka on July 8.
That was the filly's second win from only three starts, following a debut victory over 1000m at Ruakaka in January.
If Florence Jean does line up in the Gold Trail Stakes she is sure to have strong opposition with the connections of class fillies Gift Of Power, Princess Rihanna and Ujjayyi saying they are also targeting the race. Then there are the likes of Belle du Nord and Joyfilly (the minor placegetters in April's Group 1 Manawatu Sires' Produce Stakes) as well as Gold Fever and Hasahalo also waiting in the wings.
The Graeme and Debbie Rogerson-trained Gift Of Power caught the eye early in the season when she strung together a hat-trick of wins that included the Group 2 Wakefield Challenge Stakes at Trentham in December. In two subsequent starts the filly, by first-season sire Power, finished runner-up to Hasahalo in Group 3 company at Ellerslie before finishing unplaced in the rich Karaka Million in January.
Put aside for a decent break, the rising 3-year-old has been back in work for some time now and is pleasing co-trainer Graeme Rogerson with her progress to date.
"She has really furnished into a super-looking individual and strengthened up nicely during her time in the paddock," he reported.
"She's been back in work a wee while now and has done everything right so far. She's probably just about ready for her first serious gallop in the next week or so and we will then start to make our plans from there.
"We've got the 1000 Guineas at Riccarton as one of her main aims for the early summer with the Gold Trail Stakes at Hastings earmarked as an early assignment."
Well-performed youngster Princess Rihanna is also likely to head toward the fillies' feature during the Hawke's Bay spring carnival.
"We'll probably have her ready to go in the Gold Trail Stakes," said Lance O'Sullivan, who trains with Andrew Scott.
She won one of her five 2-year-old starts this season and she also finished fourth in the Group1 Sistema Stakes, the Group 2 Matamata Breeders' Stakes and in the Listed Karaka Million.
One filly unlikely to be at Hastings is this season's outstanding 2-year-old Melody Belle.
The Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards-trained daughter of Commands netted four wins including the Group 1 Manawatu Sires' Produce Stakes, the Karaka Million and the Group 2 Sires' Produce Stakes in Brisbane.
Melody Belle, who was purchased for $57,500 by Te Akau principal David Ellis at Karaka on behalf of Fortuna Syndications, is currently enjoying a good break and on her return the Group 1 Sistema Railway Stakes (1200m) at Ellerslie on New Year's Day will be a goal.
"We feel she is the right sort of filly to then step up to the $1 million Karaka Three-year-old Mile at Ellerslie at the end of January," Ellis said. "Following that she could look to major races like the Coolmore Classic at Randwick, in Sydney if she was happy getting over a bit more ground."
Numbers are up for HB Group 1 features
Hawke's Bay Racing is delighted with the number of entries for the three Group 1 races at this year's Bostock Hawke's Bay spring carnival.
Forty-seven horses have been nominated for the $200,000 Tarzino Trophy on the first day while the $200,000 Windsor Park Plate on the second day has 56 and the $250,000 Livamol Classic on the last day has 57.
"The numbers are up for all three races, which is great for the club," general manager Andrew Castles said.
The Tarzino Trophy (formerly the Makfi Challenge Stakes), will be run on September 3.
The weight-for-age 1400m event is headed by the outstanding performer Kawi, who will be trying to complete a hat-trick of wins in the race after victories in 2015 and 2016.
New Plymouth trainer Allan Sharrock has nominated Kawi for both the Tarzino Trophy and the Windsor Park Plate (1600m) on September 23 but not in the Livamol Classic (2040m) on October 7, believing the six-time Group 1 winner is best at distances up to 1600m.
Kawi is rated on 111 points while the next highest-rated horse in the Tarzino Trophy is the former Hong Kong-trained 6-year-old Packing Eagle. The Pins gelding is now in the Cambridge stable of Trevor and Martin Cruz after 19 starts in Hong Kong netted six wins, three seconds and two thirds. Three of his wins were in Class 2 races at 1400m while he also finished third behind champion Japanese-trained Maurice in the Group 1 Champions Mile (1600m) at Shatin.
Other notable nominations for the Tarzino Trophy are the New Zealand Derby winner Gingernuts, the Group 1 winning mares Thee Auld Floozie, Aide Memoire and Perfect Fit and the consistent Group 1 placegetter Stolen Dance.
Gingernuts is also nominated for the both the Windsor Park Plate and the Livamol Classic, with trainers Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards saying the horse will be specifically targeted at those two races.
Vokstok'n'barrell is the highest-rated horse among the nominations for the Livamol Classic and his connections are also keen to line up him up in the Windsor Park Plate as a lead up to the 2040m feature.
Weanling walk Sunday
This Sunday's annual Hawke's Bay/Poverty Bay Thoroughbred Breeders weanling walk will start at 10am at Guy Lowry's property at 305 Kawera Road, Okawa.
It will proceed to Chris Russell's property at 793 Valley Road (off Highway 50) and then to Washpool Station at 2214 Maraekakaho Road. It will then move closer to Hastings at Richard McKenzie's property at 121 Rosser Road before finishing at the Hawke's Bay Racing Stables in Wall Road.
Among the weanlings on display will be some by the stallions Shamexpress, Niagara, Per Incanto, Charm Sprit, Reliable Man, Swiss Ace, Rip Van Winkle, Bullet Train, Jakkalberry, Iffraaj and Nom du Jeu.
At the completion of the weanling walk a luncheon will be held at Off The Track Restaurant on Havelock Road, starting at 12.30pm, where there will also be a silent auction.
For catering purposes, those intending to partake in the luncheon need to make a reservation with either Sharyn Craig at email email@example.com and mobile 027 4999084 or Isabell Roddick at email firstname.lastname@example.org and phone (06) 8798662.
HB-bred still undefeated
Chopin's Fantaisie, a 3-year-old bred by Taupo's Pat Lowry, made it four wins from four starts with another impressive victory in Singapore on Sunday.
The Michael Clements-trained gelding, a brother to the former Hong Kong champion Ambitious Dragon, maintained his unbeaten record with a half-length victory in a $S60,000 race over 1400m at Kranji.
Although the margin wasn't great, winning jockey Glen Boss said he was always confident of getting the decision.
"He will never win by a space as that is not his caper. It's more cat-and-mouse style with him.
"He's got a lovely long action and has a great attitude. He will grow and mature further as he's not the full product yet - he is coming along quite well and will be even better in six months' time.
"He's such an unassuming horse, but he has so much energy and he can run time. Mike will have a lot of fun with him as he will continue to improve for sure."
Chopin's Fantaisie is by Pins out of the Oregon mare Golden Gamble and was sold by Lowry for $150,000 at the premier session of the 2015 Karaka yearling sales.
The Hastings training partnership of Guy Lowry and Grant Cullen are preparing an unraced 2-year-old full-sister to Chopin's Fantaisie and the mare Golden Gamble is now in foal to Rock 'n' Pop.
Pleasing run by Pacorus
Talented stayer Pacorus, part-owned by Havelock North couple Dave and Jenny Morison, has come through his latest outing in good shape.
He finished fourth over a mile at Te Rapa last Saturday in his final outing before the Listed $65,000 Taumarunui Gold Cup (2200m) at Rotorua tomorrow week.
"The 1600m was a touch short and there wasn't a lot of tempo, but he pulled up well," trainer Chris Wood said.