Cambridge trainer Shaune Ritchie is eyeing a tilt at the group three Wellington Cup (3200m) in January with Excalibur who will begin his Cups campaign in the MWIS Lawyers (1400m) at Ruakaka today.

The gelding is the winner of six races, including three in a row before his unplaced last-start run in the group one Auckland Cup (3200m), but his trainer isn't expecting too much from the gelding fresh-up.

"He's going to be in need of the run," Ritchie said. "He hasn't raced since the Auckland Cup and he's a five-year-old now, so I would expect the 1400m to be too sharp for him.

"We're just looking to work our way up. I don't think he was competitive last year as a four-year-old until he got to 2000m-plus, so I wouldn't think being a year older he would be any different this preparation.


"We thought we would take advantage of a decent track at Ruakaka and get his spring and summer cups campaign underway."

Ritchie said he thinks Excalibur is better suited to handicap conditions and is planning the gelding's spring and summer campaign accordingly.

"He probably was inconvenienced by the set weights and penalties conditions of the Auckland Cup," he said.

"We'll probably head for the Wellington Cup this season instead of an Auckland Cup. He's probably going to take a couple of runs to get to his peak fitness and up to the trip we are looking for.

"I think races like the Waikato Cup, Counties Cup or the Avondale Cup would be within his range because he is probably in a nice position in the weights.

"We are keen to roll the dice and the Wellington Cup would certainly suit better than an Auckland Cup given the conditions of the races."

Later in the day Ritchie will line-up Swisswatch in the Harcourts Bream Bay (1200m), but he holds concerns about drawing the outside barrier.

"If there was another option we would certainly be scratching on Saturday from gate 17," he said. "It's a horror draw for a horse who races forward and on the pace, so we can envisage him having a tough run.


Ritchie said Swisswatch would target premier spring meetings.

- NZ Racing Desk