A less-than-vintage Winter Cup line-up has boosted Cambridge co-trainer Tony Pike's confidence of a repeat victory with veteran Taking The Mickey on Saturday.

The gelding was a brave half-length winner in the $100,000 1600m group three feature last year at Riccarton over The Twist and Don't Say Clang.

He's up 1kg in the handicap on that effort with 56.5kg, but countering that is that Pike believes the field is a notch off the quality he beat in 2009.

"He's probably lost a length or two on his best form, but he's still going to be competitive in this sort of race," said Pike.

"He's still in reasonably well at the weights, particularly when you assess the overall quality of the field; that was part of the reason we decided to have another go."

Pike has also left nothing to chance on the score of rider.

He's booked James McDonald for the mount after Saturday's pilot at Te Rapa, Andrew Calder, copped five days' suspension for his enthusiasm in finding the fence before the first bend aboard beaten favourite Amirar in the Taumarunui Cup.

His only concern now is how the Riccarton track will hold up; he'd prefer to see a surface no worse than slow.

Pike said Taking The Mickey is peaking at exactly the right time for what is likely to be his last run in this campaign, coming into Saturday's race with almost an identical formline to last year.

He won an open handicap in May last year - he turned in a similar effort with a brave win at Tauranga a few weeks back over 1600m under 58kg - and again was close-up in his final lead-up when fourth over 1400m behind Salvatore on Saturday.

Taking The Mickey ran third at Te Rapa last year in the same race with 55.5kg before heading south, and could have easily repeated the placing under 57kg this time in a far stronger field.

"It's just a shame they stacked the speed up at the 600m and he ended up in the worst part of the track," said Pike.

In an unusually quiet year for northern raiders, Taking The Mickey is likely to be just one of three runners from the region when the field is finalised on Wednesday.

The others are last year's fourth placegetter Elblitzem, who jumps 4kg in the handicap to 58kg, and Don Dixit, who was run down late as favourite in R90 company over 1600m at Te Rapa on Saturday.

Taking The Mickey won't have exciting stablemate Yangming for company on this trip either.

Pike, who trains in partnership with Mark Donoghue, said the impressive winner in special conditions company at Te Rapa on Saturday is, instead, likely to return to the same course in a fortnight.

Yangming is either going to back-up in an R70 1600m, or against similar class over 2000m.

"He's a big long striding horse who hasn't shown a liking for heaving going," said Pike.

He said the Danroad 4-year-old is still learning what the game is all about. He still has a tendency to over-race - his downfall when third at Ruakaka on July 24 - and gawk around if he hits the front too soon, as he did when polishing off a strong line-up at the weekend.

"He's definitely gong to be a nice staying horse next year," said Pike.

The TAB's latest fixed odds for the Winter Cup on Saturday are Elblitzem $6; Yanna Marie $7; Taking The Mickey, Eric The Viking, Faaltless $9; Don Dixit $11; Don't Say Clang, Eel Win, Ishiabeel, Tick Tock Turbo $13; Halls, Propel $15; Romany $17; Casual, Royal Flight $21; Aussieaussieaussie $31; Jowka, Kirkdouglas $41.