Leading rider Leith Innes wants to fill a significant gap on his CV.

Innes has a career tally of 27 group one wins, including eight at Ellerslie but the Auckland Cup is not among them.

He hopes that might change when he partners Chenille in the $500,000 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup (3200m) at Ellerslie tomorrow.

He will ride Chenille at 53.5kg which is close to his minimum weight. "That's about as light as I ride but it's worth making the effort," Innes said. "You don't get many chances to win an Auckland Cup and it's a race I want to win."


Innes has rarely been close in an Auckland Cup, with his best result being a third on Chenille's former stablemate Sacred Master, who was a $3.20 favourite, 12 months ago.

Innes, 38, had his first cup ride as an apprentice, in 1996, and three of his mounts have started favourite but only Sacred Master could finish in the first five.

"She [Chenille] definitely looks to be one of my best chances [in an Auckland Cup]. She's well weighted and I'm sure she will run well if we can get the right track."

Chenille is the highest-rated Cup runner, following her decisive Nathans Memorial win on the first day of the Cup carnival but, because she has yet to win a group race, will be getting weight from most of her rivals.

The Cup is run at set weights, with penalties, and Chenille will carry 3.5kg less than she had in the Nathans.

The Pentire mare has had four wins and two seconds from eight starts at Ellerslie and has long been aimed at the Auckland Cup.

She will be having her first attempt at 3200m but has an excellent middle distance record, with six wins and five placings from 15 starts at 2000m or further. She has failed in three starts at 2400m but had a genuine excuse each time.

"I don't think two miles is going to be a problem," Innes said.

However, Innes remains concerned about the track conditions tomorrow. "I'm a lot happier than I was on Friday night, when I thought we had no chance [before the meeting was postponed] but the better the track, the better our chances.

"She felt like a different horse when I rode her [on a slow track] in the Avondale Cup. You notice the difference even when she's going around to the start. It is a bit of a worry and even on a dead 6 she doesn't feel like the same horse as she does on a good 3. It would be nice if the track could get back to a dead 4 by Thursday afternoon." The track was rated a slow 9 yesterday morning but no rain was forecast for today or tomorrow.

Innes will have mounts in four group one races this week. He will also ride Felton Road in the Sistema Stakes and Von Tunzelman in the Bonecrusher Stakes tomorrow and will partner the form runner Savvy Dreams in the $300,000 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) at Trentham.

Felton Road, a stablemate of Chenille, won his first two starts before finishing third in the Karaka Million and is an obvious chance for the two-year-old feature, a race Innes has already won three times.

"I think he [Felton Road] would prefer a good track too," Innes said. ""He's going well and is a nice horse with a good attitude - he wants to be a racehorse. I think the two who beat him in the Karaka Million - Melody Belle and Hasahalo - will be the horses to beat again."

Von Tunzelman, a four-year-old by Zabeel, has had four wins and three seconds from 10 starts, though he is stepping up in class for the weight-for-age Bonecrusher.

"He's not well off at weight-for-age and is still a bit green and immature," Innes said. "But he's an up and comer and a fit horse. Regardless of what he does this week, he should be knocking on the door in these sorts of races next year."

- NZ Racing Desk