Group 1 performer Aalaalune will kick-off her three-year-old season in the Tee Café @ Ruakaka Races (1000m) on Sunday and her path this season hinges on her performance at the Northland track.
The daughter of Reliable Man had a pleasing juvenile season. While not quite managing to win as a two-year-old, she placed in three of her six starts, all at stakes level, including runner-up performances to Yourdeel in the Group 1 Sistema Stakes (1200m) and Bavella in the Listed 2YO Stakes (1100m). “If she raced in a maiden race somewhere along the line she probably would have easily won a race, but she never raced out of black-type and she never once disgraced herself,” trainer Jacob McKay said. “She put her hand up every time and was unlucky really with her draws.”
Aalaalune pleased McKay with her 900m heat win at the Te Rapa trials last month and he believes that has prepared her nicely for her raceday return on Sunday. “She trialled nicely at Te Rapa, I was really happy with her,” he said. “She hadn’t done a lot of work going into it, we had her fairly fresh. “I was just happy to see her jump and put herself there and win without putting pressure on her and on a track (Slow8) she probably wasn’t 100 percent happy in. “It seems to have brought her on, which is the main thing. It was a good day out for her, so hopefully we can see the same sort of thing on Sunday.”
McKay has been pleased with Aalaalune’s progress since the trial and is looking forward to Sunday despite being a little nervous heading into the first test of her three-year-old preparation. “She has done really well since that trial,” he said. “There is always that question mark with a two-year-old that had a fairly big season whether they come back. At this stage she is ticking all of the boxes.
“It will be good to get Sunday out of the way. It’s probably the most nervous I have been for a maiden race, with a horse of her class going up there, it leaves you pretty vulnerable with a couple of unknowns in the race. “Whether the 1000m is a bit sharp for her, but if she has come back anywhere near as good as she was last prep, barring bad luck, you would like to see her be competitive on Sunday to be pushing forward to the targets we have got in-mind with her.”
One of those potential targets is the Group 1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) where McKay could break new ground with his filly against weight-for-age company. “She holds a nomination for the Tarzino, it is something the owners were quite keen to do,” McKay said. “It is a little bit of an unknown really. To even warrant it she would have to win and win quite impressively on Sunday. “It is something that hasn’t really been done before that I know of. I guess it is a big ask for a three-year-old going up against weight-for-age horses, but in saying that she will only carry 48.5kg if she did get there.”
While a Tarzino Trophy tilt is a possibility, McKay is eyeing a few three-year-old assignments this spring, including a couple over the Hawke’s Bay Spring Carnival. “There are always the three-year-old races for her along the way. There are a couple of races at Hawke’s Bay, including the (Hawke’s Bay) Guineas (Group 2, 1400m) on the last day. “Ideally we would like to try and get to Christchurch with her for the 1000 Guineas.”
McKay said a Group 1 tilt across the Tasman was also in the reckoning. “I have nominated her for the Thousand Guineas (Group 1, 1600m) at Caulfield in Australia, which comes up in October,” he said. “That’s just a bit of a whim at the moment, we need to see how she comes up. But if she does come up well it wouldn’t be crazy to think that she could be competitive in a race like that.”