Quality stayer The Chosen One takes the next step in his build-up towards the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups when he tackles the Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Sandown tomorrow.
The Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained entire is one of just five runners in the A$1 million feature, with the presence of Zaaki ($1.30 favourite) too daunting for many.
Baker, who can't be in Melbourne due to Covid-19 restrictions, is keen to have a go in a race that has been good to the stable.
"We've won it on four occasions, dating back to The Phantom in 1990 and then more recently with Lion Tamer (2011), Dundeel (2013) and Bonneval (2017)," Baker said.
"We're very happy with The Chosen One. He was good in the Feehan (Group 2, 1600m) first-up (when third) and we haven't done a lot with him. He may be looking for 2000m or a bit more now, but we're bound to have a go.
"It is a small field, but it is a very good field. It could be a tactical race."
Zaaki aside, his rivals are Kiwi Probabeel ($5), Feehan winner Superstorm ($11) and Group 1 Australian Cup (2000m) winner Fifty Stars ($31), with The Chosen One rated a $19 chance as his build-up progresses.
"He will probably have one more run at Caulfield before the Caulfield Cup in either the Caulfield Stakes (Group 1, 2000m) or the Herbert Power (Group 2, 2400m).
"He won the Herbert Power two years ago and the positive is he is in the field for the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups, so we don't have to push him to qualify."
Baker is also pleased with stablemate Quick Thinker, who is stabled with his son Bjorn in Sydney and finished second in last week's Newcastle Gold Cup under topweight.
"He went really well at Newcastle (Group 3, 2300m). He was very unlucky. He just got held up on the bend. Rory Hutchings rode a perfect race on him. He just went around in the trail and they never opened up on the bend and he had to tread water before getting out late. He ran home well and he had 5kg more than the winner," Baker said.
Quick Thinker will run in the Group 1 Metropolitan (2400m) and Kerrin McEvoy has been booked to ride.
Closer to home, four-win mare Francesca will have her first tilt at black-type when she contests the Group 3 Metric Mile (1600m) at Awapuni tomorrow.
"It looks a pretty strong field. They would have had some rain and it will be a test [heavy10]. She is stepping to the mile for the first time," Baker said.
"She has 53kg and she is a trier and I just hope the track is not too bad."
The other major New Zealand thoroughbred meeting tomorrow is at Matamata.
- NZ Racing Desk