Fleetwood Maca on song ahead of Lowland

Fleetwood Maca
Fleetwood Maca will contest the Group 2 Little Avondale Lowland Stakes (2100m) at Hastings on Wednesday. Photo: Trish Dunell

Punters should disregard Fleetwood Maca’s last two runs when assessing her chances in the Group 2 Little Avondale Stud Lowland Stakes (2100m) at Hastings on Wednesday according to co-trainer Pam Gerard.

Fleetwood Maca has shown plenty of ability to date, most notably when pushing boom filly Amarelinha to 1-1/4 lengths in the Group 2 Eight Carat Classic (1600m) at Ellerslie on Boxing Day.

Her two runs since don’t look encouraging on paper — seventh in the Group 2 Royal Stakes (2000m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day, and then eighth in the Group 3 Desert Gold Stakes (1600m) at Trentham in late January.

But Gerard, who trains with Mike Moroney at Matamata, said there are valid excuses for both.

“In the Royal Stakes she got very badly checked mid-race, clipped a heel and blundered badly and how she didn’t fall I’m not sure. It probably knocked her confidence a little,” Gerard said.

“Then everything went wrong in the Desert Gold Stakes. She got very worked up at the start, but even then she travelled up nicely to the corner. But the track was off on the inside that day and unfortunately she ended up on the worst part of the track.”

In-form jockey Samantha Collett takes the ride aboard Fleetwood Maca in the Lowland, who is rated a +850 third favourite.

Gerard also has Dragon Queen (+1100) in the Lowland Stakes field, though she may start in Sunday’s Group 3 McKee Family Sunline Vase (2100m) on Derby Day instead.

“She’s drawn an outside gate (13) in the Lowland, which makes it very tricky for her,” Gerard said.

“The Sunline Vase may have a smaller field – obviously Amarelinha’s in there, but I’m not scared of the horses there.”

Dragon Queen ran well for fourth in the Group 2 Auckland Guineas (1600m) and then finished sixth in the Karaka Million 3YO (1600m), and should relish the step up to 2100m, Gerard said, though rain would not help her.

Gerard is set to have two runners in Sunday’s Group 1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m), with class filly Tokorangi set to be joined by one-win galloper Grip.

Tokorangi is behind just Rocket Spade and Montre Moi in the Derby fixed odds market after scoring a well-deserved victory in the Group 2 Waikato Guineas (2000m).

“That was the first time she’d got a decent draw,” Gerard said. “She’s just done her final bit of work this morning. She had a bit more up her sleeve and I’m very happy with where we’ve got her.”

Tokorangi had earlier finished fourth in the Group 1 Levin Classic (1600m) and fifth in the Group 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m).

Grip, who will start at outside odds, won his maiden nicely in October but has finished behind the placegetters at his three subsequent starts, his most recent run being a ninth-place finish in the Group 2 Avondale Guineas (2100m).

“He’s going to be a lovely staying type of horse in time,” Gerard said. “He’s not there yet but he’s not the worst horse in the field and he’ll certainly see out the 2400m.”

The biggest uncertainty about the Derby is still whether it will remain at Ellerslie or be transferred to Hastings if Auckland remains at Covid Alert Level 3 on Sunday.

“Honestly it’s not ideal, but they are doing their best to run it, so we’ve just got to have our horses ready,” Gerard said.

“There’s no point losing sleep over it. I’m just very thankful that we’re able to keep racing.”

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