Last season's champion two-year-old Avantage was back doing what she does best when she opened her three-year-old season with a dogged winning performance at Hastings.

The Fastnet Rock filly was only beaten once in six starts during her juvenile campaign where she captured the rich Listed Karaka Million (1200m) before going on to score at group one level in the Manawatu Sires Produce Stakes (1400m).

Put aside following that Awapuni triumph, the Jamie Richards-trained filly resumed with a quiet run at the Te Rapa trials last month before tackling yesterday's group three Hawke's Bay Breeders Gold Trail Stakes (1200m) as her season opener.

After securing the coveted one barrier draw Avantage was sent out a warm favourite by punters with the well fancied local filly Xpression expected to pose her biggest threat.

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That scenario played out exactly as predicted as the pair set down to a tooth and nail struggle over the final stages of the contest with Avantage putting her head in front where it mattered most to score a narrow victory.

"She's such a racehorse and has the heart of a lion," rider Danielle Johnson said.

"She's got an exciting season ahead of her."

Richards cut a satisfied figure after the race as he waited for his charge to return to the winner's enclosure following confirmation of the final placings.

"She's a champion filly who has come back in really good order," he said.

"I had talked up the second horse all week, as I think she's a serious filly, so you've seen two promising horses.

"We were probably half a stride slow so had to use her up early which told a bit at the finish first-up but she will improve a lot from that."

Richards will now sit down with Te Akau Racing boss David Ellis to determine the path ahead for the filly who is being set for a tilt at the group one gavelhouse.com New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton in November.

She has now won six races for her owners, the Te Akau Avantage Syndicate and in excess of $806,000 in prizemoney.

- NZ Racing Desk