Stakes performer Travimyfriend will be heading into unfamiliar territory when he runs at New Plymouth today.
The consistent five-year-old will step out over more ground in the Gr.3 $80,000 Taranaki Cup (1800m), a race that will open up more options if he can handle the trip.
"The tight, turning track will suit him if he can jump and be right with them, but the distance is the only concern I have," trainer Rachael Frost said. "As long as he doesn't over-race he should be fine."
Travimyfriend has been in consistent touch this preparation with a win and five placings from seven appearances and he produced a career-high performance last time out to finish third in the Gr.3 Anniversary (1600m) at Trentham. "He didn't surprise me, even though it was a big step up from what he had been racing against," Frost said.
Under the conditions of the Anniversary, Travimyfriend was in receipt of three kilos from the winner Wait A Sec with the difference between the two rivals out to seven kilos at New Plymouth.
"He's much better suited at the weights on Saturday and he's come through that last run really well," Frost said. "I thought about putting him out after Trentham, but after he measured up so well we decided to keep going."
• A switch to weight-for-age conditions could see Wingatui galloper Tommy Tucker finally snare success in the Gr.3 White Robe Lodge Weight For Age (1600m) today.
Previously run under handicap conditions, the Wingatui feature has attracted the Brian and Shane Anderton-trained Tommy Tucker for a fourth time, the Gallant Guru nine-year-old gelding having finished 11th in 2015 and second in the past two years.
"It's the first time he's meeting these horses on level terms," Shane Anderton said.
"His form has been good and we're getting a bit of rain today [Thursday] which should mean we get a bit of give in the track and that will help him as well."
A winner of 15 of his 50 starts, Tommy Tucker found the line strongly for third to Kolonel Kev in the Listed Timaru Cup (1600m) last start beaten just 1 lengths under handicap conditions.
At weight-for-age, Tommy Tucker meets Kolonel Kev seven kilos better, though drawing the outside barrier of 13 hasn't gone down well with Anderton.
"He'll need a bit of luck from that gate," he said. "That's how he got beaten last year. He sat wide from an outside draw and Coulee got a soft run.
"We'll just leave it up to the jockey [Shankar Muniandy] to work it out. We'll see what the pace of the race is and go from there but we don't want to be trapped four deep."
The Andertons provided the quinella in last year's White Robe Lodge Handicap with Coulee beating Tommy Tucker by a nose and the stable has returned with four runners for this year's race. Coulee is back to defend her title, with Gallant Boy and Fascinate adding to the Andertons' formidable hand.
"Coulee is just coming back into form at the right time. Being a mare, she's better after Christmas and from barrier six, she'll be right in the pace as she was last year. She should go a nice race from there," Anderton said.
"Gallant Boy ran a good third at Riccarton the other day but it won't be easy for him at the weights. Fascinate wasn't far away from Coulee in a couple of races last year and I'd be rapt if she could run third and get some black-type for her breeding career."
While the switch to weight-for-age has a mixed effect on the stable quartet, Anderton said the change was necessary to ensure the race wasn't downgraded to Listed level.
"If we didn't change, it wouldn't be a Group Three race. We need Group racing down here so to lose one would have been a real kick in the guts," he said.
Meanwhile, the family's White Robe Lodge has enjoyed a successful Book 1 session at Karaka this week, selling all four of its yearlings, including a Savabeel-Include filly bred by Wayne and Karen Stewart for $230,000.
The other three yearlings were all by White Robe stallion Ghibellines and fetched $115,000, $72,500 and $52,500.
"We were rapt with the way Ghibellines sold and all off a $4000 service fee," Anderton said. "Hopefully they can hit the track running."
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- NZ Racing Desk