Don't let the theory horses are supposed to take longer to reach peak fitness as they get older put you off Mufhasa at Hastings on Saturday.
Because in-form trainer Stephen McKee says the millionaire galloper can win the $200,000 Makfi Challenge Stakes even though he is fresh up against one of the hottest August fields ever assembled in New Zealand.
Mufhasa will meet five other superstars who have won group one races inside their past five starts, including three with group one winning classic form in Australia in their past two starts: Lion Tamer, Jimmy Choux and Scarlett Lady.
But McKee says all the glamour gallopers going into the race fresh suits Mufhasa, even though as a bulky 7-year-old he should theoretically need the outing to trim weight off his barrel-like girth. "You would think that but I have him better than when he was going into this race last year," said McKee, who trained a treble at Ruakaka yesterday.
That outing started and ended in disaster as Mufhasa struck his nose violently on the starting gates and cost punters plenty.
Mufhasa went into this race last season just seven weeks after finishing a Queensland campaign and McKee says the decision to bypass the Sunshine State this year will greatly aid his stable star on Saturday.
"Last season he raced a long way into the winter but this year he was spelling in the good weather in April and May and I think it has really helped him.
"He looks great and I am very happy with where he is heading into the race." McKee says it is the fitter horses who worry him more than the big guns on Saturday.
"I can see it being a race where horses like Fritzy Boy and Fleur De Lune go forward and get the right runs while most of the fresh horses are probably likely to settle further back.
"A lot then will depend on the track. If it gets wetter and they start coming to the centre of the track that won't suit the leaders. But if the track is firmer and the leaders stay next to the rails they will be hard to catch."
McKee says either way he expects Mufhasa, his only starter at the meeting, to be sitting just off the speed.
"I think that is where he races best, third or fourth ready to pounce and that should put us in front of the really big names. But the firmer the better for us. It is a very good field and it won't be easy to win."
The mix of comeback horses, most with credentials well past 1400m, made the race a tough one for TAB bookmakers to assess and surprisingly they came out with Wall Street as the $3.50 favourite, with Mufhasa at $10. Jimmy Choux is rated the $4.50 second favourite although he would likely have been the favourite but for some lukewarm assessments of his recent track work coming out of Hastings.