Exciting galloper Pareanui Bay got the testing hit-out trainer Tony Pike was looking for when trialling at Cambridge on Tuesday.
A dominant winner of the Gr.2 James and Annie Sarten Memorial Stakes (1400m) at Te Rapa a month ago, Pareanui Bay finished second in a 950m on his home track and is set to take his place in Saturday's Listed Trevor & Corallie Eagle Memorial 3YO (1500m) at Te Aroha.
"He was really good today," Pike said.
"They probably ran along at raceday speed or a touch quicker with an apprentice on Stephen Marsh's horse (Master Park, who led and won).
"He travelled up nice coming to the corner and came up off heels and closed it off nicely late under minimal pressure and was good past the post.
"It was a nice day out for him. With four and a half weeks between runs we just wanted to give him a day out today to sharpen him up a bit before Saturday."
The heat was run in a slick 53.46 seconds, clearly the fastest of the four heats over the journey, with top-liners Aegon and Coventina Bay finishing in the second half of the field, but Pike said the solid gallop was a positive for the son of Lonhro who is raced by his breeders Brent and Cherry Taylor of Trelawney Stud.
"He is pretty laid back in his track work," Pike said. If he had galloped on the track this morning he probably wouldn't have exerted himself and he needed a genuine hit-out.
"I'm not too concerned (about the speed), he probably needed that and had a nice blow afterwards.
"We won't do much now before Saturday. He carries a lot of residual fitness with those two runs under his belt and with that gallop today I can't see why he won't be very competitive."
Pike said Saturday's test on a right-handed and roomier track was all with feature races at Ellerslie in mind, with the Listed Shaw's Wire Ropes Uncle Remus Stakes (1400m) on Boxing Day or the Gr.2 SkyCity Auckland Guineas (1600m) on New Year's day both possible targets.
"We are still learning what his best distance will be on the way through, but his pedigree suggests he is probably 50-50 of getting out to a Derby trip," Pike said.
"As we work though some of the three-year-old races and get up to a mile we will have more of a concrete understanding of where we are heading with him.
"We could even give him a crack at the Herbie Dyke (Gr.1, 2000m). With the strength of our weight for age horses like Melody Belle and Avantage not on the scene anymore, it is probably a race a three-year-old could be competitive in."
Pike will also have a small team heading to Otaki on Thursday including royally bred Fastnet Rock mare Puysegur, who will contest the Listed Courtesy Ford Levin Stakes (1200m).
A stakes-placed three-quarter sister to star mare Avantage, Puysegur will carry just 53kgs as she attempts to gain bold black-type and has had two trials after a lengthy absence from racing.
"Coming back off a long break, she had a little fetlock chip that needed taking out, that is the only concern," Pike said.
"She will definitely improve with the run but off a light weight she should be competitive first up."
The Cambridge horseman has also welcomed back Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) placegetter Field Of Gold to the stable after a brief break.
"We are not quite sure where he will kick off yet but are more than likely to go to the mile on New Year's Day (Gr.2, Auckland Guineas). He could kick off at Awapuni two weeks before hand," Pike said.
"He is on a potential Derby path but how we get there is at the moment a little bit up in the air."
Pike also reported that classy filly There You Go was out spelling and will most likely be set for later Oaks in Sydney or Brisbane.
"We've had a good talk to Steve and we are going to give the New Zealand Oaks (Gr.1, 2400m) a miss. Her owner Steve Bruhn is based in Australia and if we think she is going well enough she could head to Sydney and or Brisbane for some of the three-year-old fillies races over there," Pike said.