Up-and-comers with little ringcraft likely to dominate feature events at Pukekohe

For Counties races tomorrow replace with "the deep end".

Both feature races, the $100,000 Ssangyong Counties Cup and the $100,000 NRM Thoroughbred Breeders Stakes are full of horses being thrown in at the deep end.

Francaletta will go around as favourite in the Breeders Stakes, with just four race starts behind her and Megablast and Chocante are well fancied in the group three Counties Cup without either having run in open company.

Don't be surprised if the winner of both races come from that trio.


Francaletta is exceptional. She has at no point looked threatened in winning her only four races straight. The question mark is not so much taking a major leap from R85 class to group two level as the track conditions.

The classy High Chaparral mare struck slow footing in two of her wins, but she is such a strider that firmer conditions suit her best and without question her Ellerslie win last start on a good track was the most impressive of her four.

She made all the pace and clocked the fastest final 600m of the day as she raced away to score by 3.3 lengths.

Few emerging horses in the past 12 months have made a bigger impression. This is a colossal step up, but with decent conditions she will give it a great shake.

"She worked very well this morning," said co-trainer Andrew Forsman.

"She has trained on beautifully." Francaletta has drawn awkwardly wide, but she has ample tactical speed and the run down the back straight from the 1400m barrier will allow Michael Coleman ample time to use it.

After persistent showers, the Pukekohe track was yesterday an official slow (7), but with improving weather forecast from the middle of today that rating should improve.

Aotearower could not have been more stylish winning at Te Rapa when fresh from a winter spell. She had no previous wet track form, but showed distain for records when she powered home to score.

She has shown steady improvement for owners Sir Patrick and Lady Justine Hogan and the team of New Zealand's international rowing greats and that last start win will have convinced Bev and Ken Kelso they can pick up a major prize this campaign. Michael Coleman rode Aotearower to win last start, but is staying with Francaletta.

Sewreel looked good beating talented Hiflyer when resuming at Te Rapa last time and is worth some attention and there is little to choose amongst almost all the remainder of the field.

In the Counties Cup, Megablast and Chocante have excellent wet track form, but more important, both have shown potential to reach this grade without having been tested raceday.

The only defeat Megablast has experienced in his past five runs was his second to another hugely talented emerging stayer in Pacorus at Ellerslie two back. His subsequent Trentham win under Jonathan Riddell and 57.5kg showed he has trained on well.

He can find the line powerfully and that will be important in this race, also he drops from that 57.5kg to 54.5kg.

Even better off in the weights is Chocante, who will carry the minimum 53kg. He finished strongly at Trentham last start under 58.5kg and lost a heads-up-heads-down finish by the barest margin to a smart sort in Art Deco. He is a very talented young stayer and will make his presence felt.

There is no huge depth in the ranks of open class stayers at present and it has resulted in classy Get That Jive handicapped at 57.5kg, which looks a weight at this level equal to his best. And, had Storming The Tower not accepted to run, Get That Jive would have been given the mandatory topweight of 60kg, a frightening thought for a horse that has had just 11 starts for two wins.

"I know it's the way the handicaps are formed, but 57.5kg for a horse having his first middle distance race on a testing surface, it's pretty tough," says Andrew Forsman. "He's definitely paying a price for his placings at group level."

Forsman's concern around Get That Jive, despite the horse's class and potential, is a number of his opponents will be more seasoned. "That could count against him."

Cheeky Boy looks to be more solid that previously and his determination will count for a lot in the home straight. He seems able to produce his best in any conditions.

Punting pointers
Best bet: Francaletta (No 7, R5) has looked the good on the way up and although lacking experience may be too good for this lot
Each-way: Sacred Siren (No 13, R6) won brilliantly at Hastings and should carry on with it, despite rise in grade.
Roughie: Sacred Surfer (No 8, R9) had excuses for poor effort at Te Rapa and comes from inform Tony Pike stable.