The sponsors of the first race at Ruakaka today have a prime opportunity to win their money back with a speedy two-year-old filly shooting for back-to-back wins.
Trainers Ken Rae and Krystal Williams-Tuhoro will saddle the warm favourite Deploy in the Rae Racing Prom Queen Dash (1100m).
The race is named in honour of the father-daughter team's former stable star Prom Queen, who won nine races up to Group 3 level, and Rae believes Deploy could be capable of scaling similar heights.
Fifth and second in her first two appearances, it was third time lucky on June 11 as the Sepoy filly put things together nicely to score a dominant victory at Ruakaka.
"I think she's probably as quick as Prom Queen and some of the other good horses I've had in the past but she just doesn't have the temperament," Rae said yesterday.
"I was able to take horses like Prom Queen down to Christchurch as two-year-olds, but it was never an option with this horse. I didn't think she would cope with that at all.
"But her manners have been getting better and better with every race, and she's really come on a long way since that last-start win."
The inaugural 2YO Winter Championship Final (1200m) is the obvious next target for Deploy, and she is one of 10 horses nominated by Rae and Williams-Tuhoro across the five $60,000 finals races on July 16.
Today's meeting, two weeks out from the finals day, is an ideal dress rehearsal for several of those runners, along with dozens of others from throughout the northern region.
"We've got a good team in on Saturday, they should all run well and hopefully we'll get a bit of a boost from our home-track advantage," Rae said. "But there are some pretty big fields, so it'll be interesting to see what happens."
Among the most interesting runners for Rae and Williams-Tuhoro today are Irish Girl and Zelenski in the Waipu Cup (1400m).
Irish Girl has been freshened after an outstanding autumn campaign in which she won the Group 3 South Island Thoroughbred Breeders' Stakes (1600m) and Listed Easter Cup (1600m), then finished a last-start third in the Group 3 Canterbury Gold Cup (2000m) on April 23.
"We gave her a bit of a break after she got home from the South Island," Rae said.
"Going into her trial last week, I thought the stablemate [Van Diesel] would be doing well to finish within three or four lengths of her but he ended up beating her. She could be vulnerable first-up under a big weight this weekend. We'll put Kelsey Hannan [apprentice] on to bring that weight down a little bit, and we'll see how she goes. From here, she'll go into the Winter Championships Final.
"Zelenski ran a really good race for second here last start, and he'll have to be a big chance again with no weight on his back," Rae said.
"He's rock-hard fit and should be really competitive. He'll carry almost 7kg less than Irish Girl. He's not as good as her, but he's fitter."
- NZ Racing Desk