The loss of Authentic Paddy from Saturday's Gr.1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) at Te Rapa has put a spanner in the works for Hastings trainers Grant Cullen and Guy Lowry.
They will be staging a two-pronged attack on the weight-for-age event with Gr.1 Livamol Classic (2040m) winner Wait A Sec and last season's Gr.1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) placegetter Savvy Dreams and they were relying on Authentic Paddy, who has been withdrawn because of a bruised heel.
"With Authentic Paddy out, who will make the pace?" queried Cullen. "There is no real leader in the field without him. Our two will get back and wind up."
Whatever happens, Cullen is confident both his charges will perform well and press on to further Group One assignments.
Wait A Sec resumed with a last-stride win in the Gr.3 Tui Anniversary (1600m) at Trentham last month and Cullen wasn't disappointed by his eighth in the Gr.3 Taranaki Cup (1800m) at New Plymouth last Saturday.
"He had 60 kilos and it was a Good 3 track and he couldn't quicken at the 600m when he needed to get rolling. He was stuck on the fence and the rest got away from him," Cullen said. "He didn't disappoint me or Johnathan (Parkes). He went through the line strongly and finished it off nicely and didn't get knocked around.
"He's come through it in good order and any rain will bring him right into it."
Parkes will again be aboard Wait A Sec, while Sam Collett will ride Savvy Dreams after finishing fourth on her last start in the Gr.1 Harcourts Thorndon Mile (1600m) at Trentham.
"I'm really happy with Savvy Dreams. Her work on Tuesday was very good," Cullen said. "It'll be a big test against the older horses, but she can run a good last 600 metres and drawn the outside barrier she needs some luck in the running.
"It was a top run in the Thorndon. She got a long way back and her sectionals were good."
Both Wait A Sec and Savvy Dreams have been nominated for the Gr.1 Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington on March 10, though it's more likely they will instead be at Ellerslie that day.
"The main aim for Wait A Sec is the Auckland Cup and provided Savvy Dreams goes well she'll probably be there that day for the Bonecrusher (NZ Stakes)," Cullen said. "She would have to win and be very impressive on Saturday to carry on with the Australian Cup idea."
Cullen and Lowry plan to divert from the usual lead-up to the Gr.1 Auckland Cup (3200m) with Wait A Sec. "He'll go for the Wairoa Cup after Te Rapa," Cullen said. "If he doesn't run in the Wairoa Cup, he'll have a gallop between races over there."
Also set for Wairoa is the exciting two-year-old filly Xpression, who has been freshened since her impressive second-up win in the Gr.2 Wakefield Challenge Stakes (1200m) at Trentham last December.
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- NZ Racing Desk