Talented South Canterbury mare Chokito could reignite Winter Cup aspirations with a winning turn at Ashburton on Thursday.
Timaru trainer Warwick Coles had ruled out a shot at the Riccarton feature on August 6 when a tying up issue hindered his efforts to get Vespa four-year-old Chokito up to 1600m earlier in her preparation.
But having remedied that problem and with a bold last-start second at Riccarton over 1200m under her belt, Chokito will tackle the Norm & Leanne Stewart 1600 at Ashburton, a race that could yet unlock the path to Riccarton.
"We got two wins on the board early in the preparation and then she got tying up issues. Every time we got her fit to get her up to a mile, she tied up," Coles said.
"We haven't had any issues over the last six weeks so we think we're on top of it. We changed her feed and got some medication that actually suited her. We'd tried about five or six different things then finally found one that worked.
"We missed a couple of nice races I wanted to run in because of it but hopefully she'll keep. I had hoped to have a crack at the Winter Cup but we lost our momentum so that's why we weren't going to get there.
"The Winter Cup is probably off the table, unless we go super tomorrow. ''We'd have to pay a late entry fee of course but we'll just assess what she does tomorrow and see. There's always next year."
A winner of last year's Listed Southland Guineas (1600m) at Invercargill, Chokito steps up to 1600m for the first time this preparation in the set weight three- and four-year-old race in which she will carry just 53.5kg with Sanu Toolooa's apprentice allowance. A winner of six of her 17 starts and placed in a further seven, Chokito has tackled open handicap company in each of her last six starts, winning open sprints at Gore and Riccarton earlier in her preparation.
"I've been really happy with her over the last few weeks. She's racing well.
''We were going to go to the 1400m open race but after talking to the handicapper, he gave me confidence that I was better off in the 1600m race," said Coles, who combines training with beef farming at Hanging Rock, near Pleasant Point.
"If we won the open handicap we'd probably end up closer to 90 rating points and lugging big weights which is what I've been trying to avoid, but we wouldn't be so harshly penalised if we won the three- and four-year-old race so that's a good bonus.
"It should suit her down to the ground.
''She hasn't raced at Ashburton but she's won a couple of trials there. It's not going to be a walk in the park though.
"Wild Rover of the Pitmans goes pretty good and he's got the top jockey [Michael McNab] on and Sea Shepherd is a handy horse.
"But we're happy with her and we'll give it our best shot anyway."
Safely through today's race, Coles will aim Chokito at Oamaru on July 24, guided by her performance as to whether she tackles the Oamaru Cup (1600m) or the 1200m open handicap.
"She's a versatile mare and can go on any tracks and up to 1600m. This will answer a lot of questions about the 1600m for us.
"She got the mile in the Southland Guineas but that's a leader's track down there so horses can run out the distance down there better than they can at other tracks.
"This will tell us a lot tomorrow."
- NZ Racing Desk