Champion jockey Opie Bosson will partner Regazzo for the first time at Ellerslie on Sunday and his report card on the promising colt will determine whether connections can look forward to a classic campaign.
The Shaune Ritchie and Colm Murray-prepared Regazzo will step out in the Listed Te Akau Gingernuts Salver (2100m) and Bosson’s post-race comments will determine if the Group 1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) remains a realistic target.
“Obviously, he’s only had the three runs and we’re still waiting for the penny to drop a bit and we are very happy with the booking of Opie,” Ritchie said.
“I think he’s a very good horse, he’s by Tavistock out of a Zabeel mare, and is a fantastic-looking colt. Whether he is one preparation away and whether he’s up to handling a Derby prep is the type of feedback I need from Opie on Sunday.
“There is no doubt there is a big race in this horse and with a three-year-old you’re always hoping it is a classic race.”
Regazzo, who has placed in all three of his maiden outings, is raced by successful Auckland breeders Garry and Lyn Witters.
“They are fantastic clients and they have got an Almanzor yearling colt out of the mare so a bit of black type on Sunday would certainly enhance the family,” Ritchie said.
“They are the greatest people to train for and just the people I would love to win a Derby for.
“They have bred some great horses like Samantha Miss and Pravda and I met them when I bought The Good Fight, who is out of Pravda, and they took a small share in him.”
A NZD$300,000 yearling at Karaka when offered by Rich Hill Stud, The Good Fight signed off his New Zealand career with Ritchie when he won the Group 3 Rotorua Cup (2200m) before he joined Michael Moroney’s stable.
In five appearances for the Flemington trainer, the son of High Chaparral has won on his adopted home track and posted two minor placings.
Sunday also looms as a crunch day for Regazzo’s stablemate Whiskey, whose performance in the Brookby Stables 3YO (1500m) will determine the next step he takes.
The Burgundy gelding has won once from six appearances and at his most recent outing was runner-up in the Group 3 Bonecrusher Stakes (1400m).
“He has probably got a bit of a label as a horse who wants wet ground and the races we have run him in have tended to be on slow and heavy ground,” Ritchie said.
“It certainly hasn’t affected him, but he’s run a couple of nice races on top of the ground as well. This is his chance to prove he’s up to the Karaka Million 3YO (Listed, 1600m).
“He has run Dark Destroyer, who is the Derby favourite, to a head last time out and he’s drawn barrier three.
“It will be interesting to see how competitive he is in this race because, like everybody else, we would like to see him do it on top of the ground as effectively as he has been on those slower tracks.”
The stable’s representation at Ellerslie is completed by Shockallia, who is bred and raced by Rich Hill Stud, in the Race Images Handicap (1500m).
“He’s a lovely horse and I see him as a Cups type later on. He’s had a few niggling problems, which is why he’s only run twice this prep,” Ritchie said.
The son of Shocking has won two of his five starts and successfully resumed during the Hawke’s Bay spring carnival before an unplaced effort in November.
“He hung quite badly last start at Te Rapa and had an issue behind the saddle with a pulled muscle. We have got on top of that and he trialled superbly the other day,” Ritchie said.
“He has drawn to be handy and competitive as well. He might be a little bit vulnerable as he hasn’t raced for a while, but his class will take him a long way and he will be a lot better than a Rating 74 horse once he steps up to 2000m plus.
“Ultimately, he is a stayer but he can sprint pretty well fresh over 1500m.”
Ritchie and Murray have a big team in work with the majority of them younger horses progressing through the system.
“Cambridge is an area I suppose where the bulk of the horses in the Waikato are and when I first came to Cambridge, we all had 40 horses, people like Murray Baker and Roger James,” Ritchie said.
“Now, the bigger trainers have bigger numbers and I consider myself in the mid-range with 40 or 50 horses. That’s the area I like to work in and feel we can give them enough detail and get the best out of them and we’re always looking for that next Jennifer Eccles to come through.”