Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman's spring hopes gained momentum at the Te Teko trials yesterday.
The Cambridge trainers stepped out a number of group one contenders with the Australian-bound Saracino impressing in his 1000 metre open heat win and an effort mirrored by the quality filly Luna Rossa.
The former placed in two of his three two-year-old appearances and gave a game front-running account of himself when third behind Luna Rossa in the group one Manawatu Sires' Produce Stakes.
"He holds nominations in Melbourne and races like the Caulfield Guineas roll around quite quickly," Forsman said. "He'll probably go over at the end of the month and we have given consideration to a run in the Foxbridge Plate first or the other options are at Hawke's Bay or Ruakaka.
"He is right up there ability-wise and he is a lot more switched on now than he was as a two-year-old."
Eleonora, who finished in the money in all three of her juvenile starts including a second placing in the Listed Champagne Stakes, also has the Melbourne spring carnival on her programme. "She's quite under-rated and the VRC Oaks would be the ultimate aim," Forsman said.
Luna Rossa, who beat fellow group one winner and NZ 2000 Guineas prospect Heroic Valour in her three-year-old heat, will lead the stable's bid for spring classic honours at home although she does also hold nominations for Melbourne.
"I was very happy with her and surprised that she jumped and put herself on the pace," Forsman said. "She pricked her ears and kicked hard.
"The 1000 Guineas would be the goal for her and we could kick her off in the Gold Trail Stakes. She's quite sharp and over 1200 metres on top of the ground she would be competitive in a race like that."
Brendon Hawtin was well-satisfied by the efforts of several junior members of his stable at the Te Teko trials yesterday. At the top of the list was a colt by Ocean Park, the first of the former New Zealand Horse of the Year's progeny to step out, who won his 600 metre heat.
"To be fair, I haven't put a lot of pressure on him and from day one he showed he's got the goods," Hawtin said. "If he gets home and comes through everything well then I will probably keep him going for one of the first two-year-old races " either Wanganui or Ruakaka."
The youngster, who is Karaka Million eligible, is out of Woodminco and he is a half-brother to the listed Great Northern Foal Stakes winner Russian Conquest. Hawtin's two-year-olds by Fastnet Rock, Foxwedge and Power also placed in their heats with the latter likely to remain in work while the other two are turned out.
Southern Icon ready for Foxbridge
An impressive trial win at Te Teko yesterday showed Southern Icon to be ready for the biggest challenge of his career.
Trainer Alan Tait believes the five-year-old can measure up in group one company, but he will have to produce a bold performance at Te Rapa on Saturday week for the chance to prove his quality.
"His next race will be the Foxbridge Plate and he has to win or run in the first three to guarantee a start in the Makfi," the Matamata horseman said.
Southern Icon's free-wheeling style has seen him unbeaten in his last four starts and his trial win was achieved in similar fashion. "He just jumped and led like he does - he's used to doing it that way," Tait said. "Mentally, he's more mature now and we've always thought he was pretty smart.
"He doesn't have to be in front, but he's just got that much speed and he can run time - we think he can make the next step up."
Runner-up to Southern Icon was the dual group one placegetter Battle Time, who is also on a path to the Makfi Challenge Stakes at Hastings on August 27.
"He needed the gallop and it will bring him on," said Margaret Carter, who prepares the four-year-old with her husband Tim.
"It's been difficult with the weather to get the work into them at home. He's nominated for the Makfi and whether he has a race before that we're unsure."
Stablemate and group two winner Farm Boy also pleased with his effort behind Saracino in an open 1000m heat. "I was stoked with his run - I didn't expect him to go that well," Carter said. "It was a tidy effort, he ran home beautifully."
Farm Boy also has entries for all three legs of the Hawke's Bay Triple Crown series.
- NZ Racing Desk