El Pescado is in top order ahead of a return visit to Hastings on Saturday, according to his trainer Stuart Manning.

The lightly-tried 6-year-old will again take on Kawi in the Windsor Park Plate after finishing runner-up to the country's star weight-for-age performer in the Makfi Challenge Stakes.

"I think he's better now, I couldn't be any happier with him," the Cambridge trainer said yesterday. "He's all good, but then I suppose all the others will be, too."

He will also be over the moon if the rain forecast for Hawke's Bay arrives.


"That would suit us a lot better than the rest,. He doesn't want it heavy or anything, just a bit of cut in the ground and I'll be clapping my hands if it does rain on the day."

El Pescado went into the Makfi off the back of a resuming win in an open sprint at Rotorua, his first appearance since finishing seventh in the Rich Hill Mile at Ellerslie on New Year's Day.

"Getting back to the mile on Saturday will only help him as well," Manning said. "He's won over it before."

Depending on his performance at the weekend, the Frank and Faye Drummond-bred and raced gelding may head back to Hastings for the last leg of the Triple Crown series, the Livamol Classic.

"He'd be a late nomination, but if he goes well again he's paid for that himself," Manning said. "He's never raced over a distance, but to me he's a horse that will get out over a bit of ground without a problem."

TAB bookies seem to think the Windsor Park PLate is a one-act affair quoting Kawi at odds on.

Market: $1.85 Kawi, $6 Rasa Lila, $8 Capella, $9.50 Mime, $13 El Pescado, $18 Farm Boy, $21 Julinsky Prince, Authentic Paddy; $26 Battle Time, $31 Our Vergara, $61 Celebrity Miss, Fanatic; $91 Bohemian Lily.

Meanwhile, Tony Pike's Melbourne Spring Carnival hopes have suffered a blow with the forced retirement of his group one winner Provocative.

The Cambridge trainer had high hopes for the Zabeel mare, who was being aimed at the Caulfield Cup.

"Unfortunately, a scan has showed she's got a little tear in her tendon and there's a fair bit of rehabilitation involved so after discussions with the owners the decision has been made to send her to stud," Pike said.

"She only had the eight starts and she did a super job, you could only think that she was going to get better. It's a great shame, but these things happen and you have to plug on."

A $250,000 yearling at Karaka, Provocative won four races for owners Robin Peel-Walker and Mark Wyborn with her victory in last season's Queensland Oaks the highlight of her brief career.

Pike's Melbourne hopes will now rest with two other group one winners in Sacred Elixir and Rangipo.

"Sacred Elixir is going really well and he'll run in the Guineas Prelude, which is only 1400m and well short of his best," he said.

"As long as he is finishing off well, he will head on to the Caulfield Guineas and then the Vase before the VRC Derby."

A decision on where Rangipo will open his carnival campaign will be made after he gallops on today.

"He could go fresh-up into the Sir Rupert Clarke or we could wait a week for the Paris Lane," Pike said.

- NZ Racing Desk