Last season's Group 1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) winner Sentimental Miss passed the first test of an abbreviated spring campaign when she flashed home to finish close-up behind the placegetters in Saturday's Group 2 US Navy Flag Foxbridge Plate (1200m) at Te Rapa.
The Go Racing Yesteryear Syndicate-owned 4-year-old showed she was well on target for a potential Australian Group One assignment after enjoying a decent winter break following her Oaks triumph back in March.
Racing manager Matt Allnutt, who had advised syndicate members before the race that the mare was well but not to expect a winning run, was over the moon with the performance that saw her finish off strongly to finish seventh in the hands of rider Craig Grylls.
"We knew she had really come on with her time off and she was ready to get back on the track but we weren't expecting too much from her as 1200m was always going to be too short for her," Allnutt said.
"We told Craig not to bustle her early and let her run home and he rode her perfectly. After watching the replay, you couldn't help but be delighted with the run as she was taking ground off them all the way down the straight and she was very strong after the line as well.
"She definitely surpassed our expectations and that augurs well for what we have planned for her."
While the Reliable Man mare holds a nomination for the Group 1 Livamol Classic (2040m) at Hastings on October 5, it is more likely she will be in Sydney to contest the Group 1 The Metropolitan (2400m) at Royal Randwick on the same day.
"We have planned all along to give her just the four runs this time in before tipping her out again," Allnutt said.
"As long as she pulls up well from Saturday, she will go to Hastings on August 31 for an open 1600m before she gets on a plane for Sydney.
"If she performs up to the mark then she will run in the Kingston Town Stakes [Group 3, 2000m] at Randwick which is two weeks before the Metropolitan. She will go back in the paddock after that as we don't want to overdo things as we have bigger plans for her next year."
Allnutt believes Sentimental Miss has the ability to foot it at the highest level, a belief that will be tested at the Sydney autumn carnival and then possibly in Melbourne later next year.
"We know we are dreaming big but if she develops like we think she can, then a tilt at the Melbourne Cup next year is not out of the question," he said.
"That's why we don't want to overtax her this time in as we want her at her best to be able to take on a challenge like that.
"It may not pan out that way but after what we saw on Saturday it would be nice to think we could live that dream."
- NZ Racing Desk