Three-year-olds at different ends of the performance scale produced eye-catching efforts at Ellerslie on Saturday.
The lightly-tried Time To Celebrate downed a handy age group line-up in the John Deere Agrowquip 1500, while the group one winner Sacred Elixir delighted trainer Tony Pike with his exhibition gallop.
"That was fantastic, he quickened up really well and was very professional," Pike said. "He was focused and worked extremely well."
Last season's J. J. Atkins winner, who hasn't raced since he finished runner-up in the VRC Derby, ran the closing 600m of his work in 34.2.
Sacred Elixir will open his Vodafone NZ Derby campaign in the NZB Insurance Karaka 3YO Mile at Ellerslie on January 29.
Meanwhile, the Jenna Mahoney-trained Time To Celebrate lowered the colours of the favourite Heroic Valour under a well-judged ride by Jason Waddell.
"He's a really nice horse and I was confident we could steal the race off the front," Waddell said. "I didn't want to go too slow and make it easy for the other horse under his topweight."
Raced by Vicky Tang, Time To Celebrate will renew his rivalry with Heroic Valour when they take on Sacred Elixir and company in the Karaka 3YO Mile.
"He's owned in Hong Kong so he will eventually go there, but in the meantime we'll look at a couple more three-year-old races," Mahoney said.
- NZ Racing Desk