After a week of trickery from horse and trainer, Avantage is back ready to give futures punters their treat at Hastings tomorrow.
The Avantage who bounced off the track at Matamata yesterday morning is ready to win the first Group 1 of the thoroughbred season — the $200,000 Tarzino Trophy.
It didn't always feel like that to trainer Jamie Richards. Last weekend, and more worryingly on Tuesday, Avantage's trackwork left a lot to be desired.
Richards was frowning but not panicking, knowing sometimes older horses will be blasé in their work. But it still wasn't ideal from the last-start Foxbridge Plate winner, especially at $1.85 odds for the Tarzino.
"Tuesday morning was very so-so but I think she was messing with us," says Richards.
"She worked in a hood as a lot of ours do as we like to keep them calm in their work and not get them too keen.
"But she knew it was just trackwork and with the hood on she was too relaxed and let the younger horses [Miss Aotearoa] beat her. She just cruised around."
Suspecting Avantage was taking the mickey, Richards tricked her back, in a rare move taking the ear muffs off her for trackwork yesterday and the $1.4 million earner was a different horse. "I was a lot, lot happier," says Richards.
"She was bright and more attentive and worked better. Opie [Bosson] rode her and gave her the thumbs up and that is always a good thing.
"I was never too worried because she had eaten well and looked good but Tuesday made me think a bit. But [yesterday] confirms to me she is exactly where she needs to be."
That will bring a sigh of relief to not just those punters wanting to back Avantage tomorrow but those who backed her heavily in fixed odds markets where she was as long as $4.40.
Everything else seems to have tracked well, her win in the Foxbridge being professional without hurting her and while runner-up Tavi Mac returns tomorrow most of the others who finished close up that day don't.
With barrier five in a race set to be run at good tempo, she looks likely to settle in the first five or six and even if she hasn't improved since Te Rapa it will take a huge effort to beat her.
Her fellow mares looks her greatest dangers, with Jennifer Eccles, Bavella and Supera all having Group 1 class and the draws to get economical trips.
Bavella on the rail and tracking a free-going leader such as The Mitigator or Jennifer Eccles coming across Avantage's heels at the 200m mark could both provide sterner opposition than most did at Te Rapa.
After a slow August bogged down by wet tracks, Richards' Te Akau stables have fired in the last two weeks and he heads to Hastings tomorrow confident.
"I think we are taking one of the better teams to Hastings we have for a while," he says.
"They will need to be good because it is a quality meeting and not as easy place to win at this time of the year.
"But alongside Avantage I think Miss Aotearoa [race eight] has a good chance and we really like Vamos Bebe [race five].
"And Savy Yong Blonk [race nine] is really well. In fact, the whole team seems ready to go and we could have a good day but with this type of racing we could just as easily come home with four or five placings."
What: $200,000 Tarzino Trophy.
When: Tomorrow, 4.25pm.
Why it's important: The first Group 1 thoroughbred race of the season and first leg of the Hawke's Bay Triple Crown.
Who: Avantage is the hot favourite but meets a strong selection of racemares, Group 1 winners Shadows Cast and The Mitigator, and the equine sausage dog, Tavi Mac.