Cambridge trainer Tony Pike will use the Gr.2 Avondale Guineas (2100m) at Ellerslie on Saturday as a testing ground ahead of the Gr.1 Vodafone NZ Derby (2400m) next month.
He will line up two runners in the race and is hoping Surely Sacred can add another Classic scalp to his record after taking out the Gr.2 Auckland Guineas (1600m) at Ellerslie on New Year's Day.
"Surely Sacred has been competitive in all the strong three-year-old races to date," Pike said.
"He was extremely unlucky in the Karaka Mile (to finish fifth), he just got shuffled back, in a slowly run race at the wrong time but finished off the race really well."
The three-year-old gelding will step up to 2100m for the first time on Saturday, but Pike doesn't believe that will pose any issues for the son of Rock 'n' Pop.
"I think the 2100m will suit him, being out of Provocative's family. He looks like a nice horse heading forward to the Derby," Pike said.
Surely Sacred is a half-brother to the dam of Provocative, who Pike trained to win the Gr.1 Queensland Oaks (2400m), and he said that bodes well for his Derby aspirations next month. "He has shown us no reason why he couldn't stay the 2400m distance of the Derby," Pike said.
"He is by Rock 'n' Pop, who was a Group One winner at a mile and didn't get a lot further, but he has got a reasonably stout pedigree behind him. With everything he has shown us to date, and he switches off well in his races, suggests he should get the mile-and-a-half with no worries."
With the suspension of regular rider Leith Innes, Vinnie Colgan will take the reins aboard Surely Sacred on Saturday.
While Pike is bullish about the chances of Surely Scared leading into the Guineas, he is taking a wait and see approach with fellow Derby aspirant Rippa Eagle.
The son of Rip Van Winkle has won two of his six starts to date and Pike wants to find out if his gelding can step up against his Classic rivals on Saturday before deciding on whether he will press on to the Derby.
"He wasn't paid up for the Karaka Millions, so he couldn't run in the mile," Pike said.
"He went down and took on the older horses mid-week at Hastings (over 2000m). It was a fair run, but first time over ground against older horses, we are happy enough to forgive that run.
"It was a solid run for third and it's really a roll of the dice on Saturday to see if he will stay the 2100m against the better three-year-olds. If he does, then he will press on towards the Derby."
- NZ Racing Desk