When Jenna Mahoney says her once-raced maiden Noble Win is a high-quality galloper, it pays to listen.
Mahoney may not be a banner name to rank and file punters, but that's because she prepares horses primarily to sell or to qualify for overseas racing jurisdictions, and despite a steady exodus has enjoyed a strong season this year.
Among the horses to have emerged from her stable in recent times are Verona, who followed up a fourth placing in this year's Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) with victory for new trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace in the Group 3 Packer Plate (2000m) at Randwick, and Inundation, who looks a potential sprinting star in Melbourne after winning his third consecutive race on June 25 with a dazzling display at Caulfield.
So her high thoughts about Noble Win, who makes his second raceday start in a 970m maiden on the Cambridge synthetic today, are worth taking note of.
"I'd say he's one of the most talented horses we've had through the barn," said Mahoney, who trains at Byerley Park, near Pukekohe.
"He's got the outside gate in an 11 horse field, which won't be easy there, but he's got a heap of ability."
Noble Win impressed at an Ellerslie jumpout prior to his first race and was favourite for his debut at Te Aroha on January 3. He finished second to Cool Change, who has won two of her subsequent five starts, and was nearly four lengths in front of third-placed Lebanese Trader, who has also won twice since then.
"He went well but he got a little bit lost in the last stages of that race," Mahoney said.
"He then pulled a muscle, which meant we had to wait. It's not an ideal time of year to run him again, but there aren't really any other options."
Since recovering from his injury Noble Win has scored decisive victories at two subsequent trials, one of which was on the Cambridge synthetic track.
"The draw's not ideal, but I think he's got enough ability to have a big chance to run over the top of them even with that draw," Mahoney said.
In addition to Verona and Inundation, several of Mahoney's best performers have made their way to Hong Kong. One of the most notable is Time To Celebrate, a four-time winner in Hong Kong who was runner-up in the Group 3 Premier Cup (1400m) in 2019 prior to returning to Mahoney and finishing fourth in the Group 2 Rich Hill Mile (1600m) on New Year's Day.
Other good Hong Kong gallopers Mahoney has prepared include King Opie, a winner of five in Hong Kong, and the promising sprinter A Smile Like Yours, who has won four of his 13 races in Hong Kong this season.
If all goes well, Noble Win is likely headed in the same direction. To qualify for racing in Hong Kong horses need to earn a Hong Kong rating of 63, which usually means about two wins in New Zealand, from a maximum of 17 starts before they turn five.
"He's Hong Kong-owned so the idea is to get him qualified to go over there. So he won't stay too long if he can qualify," she said.
Noble Win won't be the only horse Mahoney takes to Cambridge. Tomsk, who finished third on the synthetic track in a maiden 1550m contest on June 15, steps up to 2000m for a maiden.
"He's taken a bit of time and he's also got a wide draw but he's a runner's chance if he can get it all together," Mahoney said.
In keeping with the Hong Kong theme, Hezthewonforus, who was a multiple winner for John Size in the highly competitive racing circuit, is nominated for both a Rating 74 1500m event and the UBP Te Awamutu Cup (1600m) at Te Rapa on Saturday.
Mahoney is also likely to be represented at Ruakaka on Saturday week by the filly Fernandez, who will contest the ITM/GIB 2YO Winter Championship Series Final over 1200m.
"She hasn't been able to get a draw yet but has still been running very nice races. She's a really nice filly who only needs a decent draw to be right in it."
Mahoney has had her best season to date in New Zealand, with career-best tallies in wins (nine) and prizemoney ($276,765), and though her focus remains on preparing and selling horses for overseas, she does have hope for some fillies likely to remain in New Zealand for next season.
"I've got a lot of time for Shez Class, who's had a couple of starts as a 2-year-old for a third and fourth. She's owned by New Zealanders and will probably be raced here unless she goes to Australia."
- NZ Racing Desk