The hot favourite for the $1 million Karaka Classic at Ellerslie on Saturday pretty much sums up the yearling sales experience for New Zealand's leading stable.

Because Madison County was just a $36,000 yearling when purchased by the China Horse Club and yet now he is the best three-year-old in the country for trainers Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman.

The Cambridge pair have regained their usual spot at the head of the national trainers premiership this week, their 60 wins for the season so far one more than Te Akau's Jamie Richards.

On Saturday the vast difference between the two stables will be best summed up by the fact Te Akau have five juveniles in the $1 million Karaka Million as well as two in the Classic, whereas Baker/Forsman have none in the juvenile and two of the favourites for the Classic. The other is a rare expensive yearling sales purchase to walk into their stable, Queen Of Diamonds, like Madison County bought by China Horse Club but for $640,000.


"We don't get many of those," laughs Baker.

The Cambridge pair are always active at the sales but nothing like Te Akau, with many of their future stars coming to them later, sometimes months after the sales.

"We sometimes get them in dribs and drabs," admits Baker.

"We are always there looking for a good horse like everybody else is and we look at a huge amount but we also get a lot of horses from people who buy or retain a horse, give it a spell, and then ask us to take it."

That means Baker and Forsman are rarely involved directly at the flashier end of the market but Baker says he has nothing but admiration for the job Te Akau boss David Ellis does.

"The industry needs David, he brings a lot of people into the game.

"But we tend to get a lot more three-year-old types, which is sort of what we target.

"Ideally we want Guineas-Derby-Oaks horses because we can take them to Australia and be competitive, which is very, very hard to do with juveniles."


So much so the stable has only lined up two juveniles so far this season, although that is quieter than usual.

This time last season they had one-time Karaka Million favourite Espumoso before be was sold to Hong Kong without contesting the race while Baker won the $1m juvenile sprint with The Heckler in 2009.

"We are always on the lookout for a good juvenile though and you never know what might turn up at the stables.

"We are open to new owners and if that is the sort of horse they want that suits us just fine."

While there will be plenty of numbers flying around Karaka next week Baker has two in particular that are important to him. "Andrew and I have had 14 stake winners this season and I want to get past our record which was 20 in New Zealand last season.

"And I want to get more group one wins in Australia, not just this season but every season.

"I'm on 21 group ones over there and I'd like to get to 25 in the next couple of years."

Madison County could even get his chance to add to that list as he was nominated yesterday for the A$1m Australian Guineas on March 2.

That is the same day as the Vodafone Derby, a race the stable won with Vin De Dance last season, and they will wait until after Saturday's Classic before deciding which March 2 target suits Madison County more.

As for today's barrier draw, which will be shown live on Trackside from 11am, Baker says something handy, maybe between barriers 4-8, would suit Madison County and Queen Of Diamonds.

"He has to be the top pick at the moment but that filly is very, very good so the draw will be interesting."

Top trainers

• Who: Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman

• Premiership: 60 wins for the season (most in NZ)

• Stakes: $2,108,958 (most in NZ)

• Stakes races: 14 for the season (most in NZ)