Stephen Marsh couldn't be happier with the progress of Crown Prosecutor as he goes into the biggest assignment of his training career this weekend.
Marsh will saddle up last season's Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) winner in the A$5 million Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) on Saturday, fresh from an improver's last-start third behind Melody Belle in the Group 1 Livamol Classic (2040m) at Hastings.
It is three years since the Cambridge trainer enjoyed his most important Australian win when Sofia Rosa won the Group 1 Australian Oaks (2400m) at Randwick and, though he realises Crown Prosecutor is rated an outsider in the Caulfield feature, he is expecting a bold effort from the son of Medaglia D'Oro who races in the same colours as Sofia Rosa.
"He went over last Wednesday and he's settled in super," Marsh said. "I'll be there to see him have a nice hit-out [this morning].
"I know it's a top field and a big step up from the Livamol, but he's on the way up and he's earned a start. We know he can get the distance.
"He mightn't be up to winning it, but it's a A$5 million race and there's good money right back to A$120,000 for 10th. Hopefully he can get some of it."
Crown Prosecutor's New Zealand Derby-winning rider Craig Grylls has ridden the four-year-old in his last two starts and retains the mount in Saturday's Caulfield Cup.
"We're happy to stick with Craig," Marsh said. "He can do the 52.5kg weight and he knows him so well."
Marsh is also pleased with his horses preparing for next month's New Zealand Cup meeting, including a team of nine he has based at Riccarton.
"It's working out well with the horses I sent down there," he said. "We've had four winners and last Friday at Timaru we had two winners and a second.
"Charlie Awesome and Mediterranean Star won well and they should win more and Rocanto ran second and is close to a win. Tantalising and Belle Fascino have won, too. They're just so well placed down there at the moment.
"I'm looking to keep the base open down there. It'll be a good satellite stable to the main one here at Cambridge and ideal for horses like those already down there.
"I've also taken over Brendon Hawtin's stables next to the track and it's ideal. There are 20 boxes and they're right next to the swimming pool. It works in so well for horses that need swimming regularly."
Set to join the Riccarton squad closer to next month will be Sorrentina, the stable's brightest hope for the Group 1 gavelhouse.com New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) and Felaar, who is on track for the Group 3 Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup (3200m).
Sorrentina, who is also raced by Lib Petagna, has been freshened since she followed an eye-catching debut third in the Listed O'Leary's Fillies Stakes (1200m) at Wanganui last September with a decisive win over 1300m at Ellerslie three weeks later.
"She's a good filly and done very well," Marsh said. "She'll head to the Soliloquy Stakes [Group 3, 1400m] at Ellerslie later this month then go down for the 1000 Guineas.
"We've also still got Bronte Beach in the mix for the 1000 Guineas, but Appellant is out in the paddock now so there's no 1000 Guineas for her.
"It was her first run up over a bit in distance [to 1400m] at Matamata last Saturday and it flattened her on the heavy track."
Felaar, a last-start late-finishing sixth second-up at Hastings over 1600m, will further his preparation for the New Zealand Cup with a run in a Rating 82 2100m at Te Rapa on October 28.
He finished third behind Bizzwinkle in last year's New Zealand Cup after completing his preparation with a second in the Listed Metropolitan Handicap (2500m) on the first day of the Cup meeting at Riccarton and Marsh plans to again follow the same programme.
"I was very happy with his run at Hastings and he just needs to get over ground," Marsh said. "He's been carrying big weights and he'll get a big weight again at Te Rapa, but the run should top him off nicely for Riccarton.
"He's racing a bit more dour this year and he's right on song for the New Zealand Cup."
Marsh also has Chief Sequoyah, a one-race winner nominated for the New Zealand Cup and plans to start him in a rating 65 2200m at Ashburton on Saturday.
Marsh is also planning ahead for the rich Ellerslie Christmas — New Year Carnival with Vernanme, winner of the Listed Karaka Classic (1600m), and recent Te Teko maiden graduate Heart Of The Ocean being set for two of the Boxing Day features, the Group 1 Zabeel Classic (2000m) and the Group 2 Ladies Mile (1600m).
"Vernanme will have a couple of mile races beforehand, probably the open handicap at Trentham and the Group 1 Captain Cook Stakes [1600m]," he said.
"Heart Of The Ocean is a lovely filly. She will go into the Eight Carat [Ladies Mile] second-up."
- NZ Racing Desk