A near-perfect last fortnight has elevated Jennifer Eccles from supporting cast member to potentially the star of the show in Saturday's $200,000 Tarzino Trophy.

Co-trainer Shaune Ritchie says the reigning Filly of the Year can now win the first Group 1 of the thoroughbred season at Hastings on Saturday.

"Two weeks ago she couldn't," admits Ritchie, who trains Jennifer Eccles with Colm Murray.

"I'll be honest, she has taken longer to come up than we expected. Being older she had more weight on and was thicker in the wind so she needed more work.


"So she has spent some time up north at Ruakaka, where she has had two trials, and it wasn't until after the second of those I started to think we had got her right.

"Since then everything has fallen into place. Her coat has come through and we took her to Te Aroha for a private gallop last Saturday and it was awesome.

"She is back to being the willing Jennifer Eccles she was last campaign."

Horse power is good but Group 1 races often come down to luck in the running and Ritchie says the ace draw on Saturday is perfect, especially fresh-up.

"It is good from both the trainers' point of view and the punters," explains Ritchie.

"As a trainer she can't have a hard run being forced wide now which is important to me with another Group 1 in two weeks.

"And from the punters' point of view, I think she can now win. Put her in a bad barrier from where she has to come wide and I don't think she could win. But I can see her being three back in the inside with the perfect jockey for that in Jason [Waddell]. He will know whether to stay there or get off around the home bend and on to the back of one of the key rivals.

"She has a dazzling sprint under those circumstances and I think she is now ready to show us that."

Class mare Jennifer Eccles will resume at Hawke's Bay on Saturday. Photo / Trish Dunell
Class mare Jennifer Eccles will resume at Hawke's Bay on Saturday. Photo / Trish Dunell

Jennifer Eccles, who is fresh-up since winning the NZ Oaks in March, is the $6 second favourite behind Avantage, who looks ideally drawn at barrier six but likely to start from five.

Bavella (5 into 4) also looks well placed at the draws, Tavi Mac (11) gets a slightly tricky gate while Kiwi Ida, Germanicus and Loire all face enormous tasks after drawing wide.

Rider Danielle Johnson should be able to settle handy with Avantage in a race where a decent tempo looks likely.

Trainer Jamie Richards hasn't been beaming about Avantage's track work this week but is happy with how his mare looks and is eating, so hopes it is just a case of her being a year older and more inclined to fire up raceday than for every trackwork gallop.

Still, she will want to be close to her peak on Saturday with so many high-class fellow mares drawn to get stalking her in the running.