Whanganui's ace jockeys Lisa Allpress (ONZM) and Johnathan Parkes are no strangers to big-race pressure and will set aside the massive stake money on offer on Karaka Millions night at Ellerslie this evening.
Allpress and Parkes have been headhunted to ride two of the five runners the powerful Te Akau barn has entered in the Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) event.
In the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m), Allpress will ride one of two Johnno Benner and Hollie Wynyard runners in Montre Moi, while Parkes will guide Edge Of Wonder for Team Rogerson.
Te Akau and trainer Jamie Richards will be looking to make it five wins on-end in the Karaka Million 2YO, having won the last four editions through the deeds of Melody Belle (2017), Avantage (2018), Probabeel (2019) and Cool Aza Beel (2020).
Two years ago, Probabeel overcame her outside barrier to win the Karaka Million 2YO and Richards is hoping another of his runners can replicate that performance in the Doubletree By Hilton sponsored race on Saturday.
Richards highlighted On The Bubbles as the leading chance of Te Akau's quintet in the race prior to the barrier draw and he is still standing by that call after drawing the outside barrier with the undefeated gelding on Wednesday.
"We have won it from out there before, so why can't we do it again?" Richards told the NZ Racing Desk.
"He is going to need a bit of luck, that is all."
On The Bubbles is undefeated in his two starts to date, including a three-length victory at Ellerslie earlier this month.
"I like the fact that he is a winner and he has come through the right race, and he couldn't have been more impressive last start. He is going the right way," Richards said.
Parkes, who has ridden On The Bubbles in both race-day victories, agreed.
"He's got to be a good chance," Parkes said.
"He's never drawn a good alley, I think he drew nine of nine on debut and was wide again at Ellerslie last start, raced three wide and still put them away by a widening margin. I like the way he has had a good look around Ellerslie and won there. At least drawing wide means he won't get held up.
"I'll sit down with Jamie before the race and we will work out tactics.
"When I was younger and less experienced, big-race riding could cause pressure but as I've got older I can put that big stake money on offer aside and treat it like any other race," Parkes said.
The fact Edge Of Wonder had also raced at Ellerslie and was from a proven stable, Parkes rated his 3YO classic ride a winning chance.
"Rogey [Graeme Rogerson] knows how to get them right for the big ones and he ran over 2100m here and ran third to Milford, so he's going to be race-hard fit dropping back to 1600m."
Richards will also line-up four other runners in the rich two-year-old feature, including Sophisticardo (barrier 8), Sneaky Shark (barrier 10), Millefiori (barrier five), and Avonallo (barrier nine).
Avonallo was purchased by Chris Rutten for $30,000 out of Little Avondale Stud's Book 2 New Zealand Bloodstock sale draft.
Rutten races the son of Belardo in partnership with Little Avondale Stud, and he isn't new to success on Karaka Million night.
The Horowhenua horseman has tasted victory in both the two- and three-year-old races through the deeds of Vespa and Scott Base respectively.
Avonallo will be ridden by Allpress and Rutten told the NZ Racing Desk she was pleased with the colt following his track work a few days ago.
"I will leave it to the jockey where she goes from there [barrier nine]," Rutten said.
"Lisa has been riding really well and she is in form at the moment. It is great to have her onboard.
"She was rapt when she came up and worked him the other day."
Meanwhile, Allpress has ridden Montre Moi in both her wins for the Benner/Wynyard stable.
Allpress was unavailable for comment by deadline yesterday, but has ridden winners all over the world, including being the first woman to ride a winner in Saudi Arabia.
The ultimate professional is certainly no stranger to big race pressure and treats every race the same.
She has said in the past it is her job to give every horse she rides the best chance of winning for their owners that she possibly can.