Like a lot of youngsters, Sword Of Osman may not want to go to school.

But he might have to do just that in the $70,000 Cambridge Stud Northern Breeders Stakes at Ruakaka today and that should act as a flashing warning light for punters ahead of the clash of the day.

Last season's group one Sistema Stakes winner returns over 1200m and faces two major hurdles, in-form filly Melt and his precociousness.

And trainer Jamie Richards knows the education course he has set down for Sword Of Osman could even cost him today's 1200m feature, all in the name of winning the 2000 Guineas in two months.

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All three of Sword Of Osman's juvenile wins came when he led but Richards, now the main man for Te Akau, realises the gelding is going to need a few more strings to his bow if he is going to be a group one 1600m winner, which is the where the real money lies for Kiwi three-year-olds.

"Ideally he needs to learn how to settle in his races and take a spot, to give him more options," says Richards.

"That is how we rode him in his last trial and that is how I'd like to see him ridden this week.

"That doesn't mean it is going to happen and if the pace is slow or he jumps too well he might up outside the leader but I'd really like to see him in the field.

"I think he can do that and still win on class but this race is also about teaching him how to be a racehorse for targets like the 2000 Guineas and even further down the track the Karaka Mile."

If Sword Of Osman was the likely leader that could potentially have seen Melt, drawn barrier one, shuffled back and give the former a huge tactical advantage around a Ruakaka track that tends to suit leaders.

But Richards's frank admission of their intended gameplan - which like anything in racing is only intended - suggests Melt deserves favouritism.

She cantered up to win a significantly easier race here two weeks ago and while she has tended to race off the speed that has often been by design rather than a lack of speed from the gates.

With one of the better hustle and bustle riders in the north in Sam Spratt backing up from her last start win on Melt, the daughter of Iffraaj could hold the trail from the ace and then her main concern could be getting off at the right time.

Precocious gelding Sword Of Osman needs a few more strings to his bow and will be tested at Ruakaka today.
Precocious gelding Sword Of Osman needs a few more strings to his bow and will be tested at Ruakaka today.

The field is stacked with Guineas nominees and one of the most intriguing is Reevederci, who won his June debut at Avondale by a cricket pitch but finds himself up in grade and on top of the ground.

"It will be a good guide for us going forward," says trainer Lance Noble.

"He is a good-actioned horse who looks like he will handle better ground but he still has to find 10 seconds on his time at Avondale," he offers tongue in cheek.

"But like a lot of trainers at this time of the year, we have Riccarton on our minds and with Sword Of Osman and Melt in here this should tell us where we stand."

While the three-year-olds will take centre stage at Ruakaka the fortunes of two vastly different four-year-olds returning to racing will play a vital role in how punters fare today.

Speed freak Prom Queen (R3, No3) hasn't been seen since a decent Queensland campaign in the winter but is perfectly weighted to win on her home track.

Another who hasn't raced since an Australian campaign is Vodafone Derby runner-up Mongolian-conqueror (R8, No1), who claims 4kg with Nik Bakar riding.

Although today's distance will be well short of his most potent, he has won over 1400m before and his fitness looked advanced when he won an open catchweight at the Te Teko trials two weeks ago over 1010m with Opie Bosson in the saddle.

Beat the clock
Awapuni: $80,000 open 1550m, R7, 3.50pm
Ruakaka: $70,000 Breeders Stakes, R7, 4.09pm
Randwick: A$500,000 Colgate Stakes (featuring Winx), R6, 5.10pm.