Ken Kelso has never considered himself an equine ladies' man. But ask the co-trainer of potentially New Zealand's most exciting horse in Levante what percentage of he and wife Bev's stable are female horses and the answer surprises him.
"Hold on, I'll count up ... [pause] ... we have 14 racehorses here and only two of them are boys," laughs Kelso.
"I hadn't really thought about it much, but yes, that is a lot of girls."
Pull that thread a little harder and Kelso says the way he and Bev train probably suits mares.
"We don't have a lot of horses for a start, usually only 14 or 15," says the Matamata maestro.
"And we put them out in paddocks which I think the mares like. When Levante came home [on Saturday night], she was straight into the paddock and loved it. Didn't leave a handful of feed. But when I think about it, I suppose we have had quite a bit of success with the girls."
That is an understatement.
Dating all the way back to Amloch in the early 1980s, the Kelsos have had a string of outstanding female gallopers, including Love Dance, who won the Kelt Capital in 1996.
"I think that was the first fixed odds betting race in New Zealand," remembers Kelso.
Mares like Xanadu, who beat Mufhasa in a Windsor Park Plate, Perfect Fit and last year's Railway runner-up Princess Kereru followed, as well as the 2013 Filly of the Year in Fix.
Bounding was so good, she won the Railway for the Kelsos as a 3-year-old filly, equalling her other claim to fame, being a half-sister to ill-fated English Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck.
The Kelsos also train one of New Zealand's best weight-for-age mares in Supera, even if she was below her best in a Breeders Stakes not run to suit at Pukekohe on Saturday.
So with that line-up of lovely ladies on the stable CV, when Ken says Levante might be the best mare he has trained, the statement lands with a thud.
At the moment, that may be based on Levante's potential, but judging by what she did in the $50,000 Counties Bowl, what she can achieve domestically this summer has few limits. The 4-year-old daughter of Proisir was last for 700m of the 1100m listed race, and when Sam Collett launched her down the home straight, she got the speed wobbles, she was going so quickly.
How quick? Levante's last 800m was 43.9s, her 600m a blistering 32.49s and she covered the 400m to 200m section when gathering speed in 10.47s.
Fast times come and go, especially down the dogleg sprint courses of Riccarton and Trentham, but even leave times out of it and Levante has still come from last to thrash a field that would sit comfortably as a Railway line-up on New Year's Day.
So stunning was the performance, she is now the $3 favourite for the race over multiple Group 1 winner Avantage, even though the Railway will be just Levante's seventh start.
"She will head there next without another race, maybe a trial or an exhibition gallop," says Kelso.
Collett, who was having her first race ride on Levante on Saturday, keeps the mount as she can make the mare's 53kg for our most glamorous sprint whereas her regular rider from last season Ryan Elliot cannot.
Saturday's meeting felt like the launch of the northern summer of racing, with Media Sensation back on the big stage where she belongs in the Breeders and Opie Bosson showing punters just how dialled in he is for the months ahead with a pearler of a ride on In A Twinkling in the Counties Cup.
But as good as they and the support cast of Brix and Our Alley Cat were, almost everybody at Pukekohe was left talking about just one horse.
$8: Summer Passage
$12: Media Sensation
$14: Acting, Julius
$16: Only In Jakarta
$18: Festivity, Spring Heat
$20 and more: The rest.