Former paddock mates to battle at Riccarton

Xpression winning the Gr.3 Barneswood Farm Stakes (1400m). Photo credit: Race Images South

Leading Group 1 Gavelhouse.com New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) contenders Xpression and Melt once shared a paddock at Haunui Farm, but there will be no love lost between the star three-year-old fillies when they contest the Riccarton feature on Saturday.

They currently head the market for the 1000 Guineas with TAB bookmakers, with Xpression sitting as a warm $2.30 favourite and Melt earmarked as the next best chance at $3.

While Haunui Farm principal Mark Chitty will be barracking for both fillies down the straight on Saturday, he will be cheering even louder for Xpression as she carries home the Haunui Farm colours.

Chitty co-bred and co-owns the daughter of Showcasing and said it has been a huge thrill to watch her perform so well on the track.

From five starts, the Guy Lowry and Grant Cullen-trained filly has won three races, including two at Group level. She also placed in her other two starts, including a brave runner-up performance behind Avantage in the Group 3 Hawke’s Bay Breeders’ Gold Trail Stakes (1200m) at Hastings last month.

“She has done everything that could be expected of her this time in,” Chitty said. “She’s been in the South Island since the Barneswood at Ashburton and by all accounts she has trained on nicely since that win.”

Xpression has trialled at Motukarara since her victory in the Group 3 Barneswood Farm Stakes (1400m), winning comfortably under premiership-winning jockey Samantha Collett.

“She’s come through that trial really well, Sam Collett went down and rode her that day and they all seem pretty happy with where she is at,” Chitty said. While confident of his filly’s chances, Chitty is mindful of the strong form around some of her competitors.

“Melt’s form through Madison County (winner of the Group 1 Al Basti Equiworld New Zealand 2000 Guineas(1600m)) is probably the strongest form in the field and there’s Media Sensation, the Peter and Dawn Williams stable is on fire,” Chitty said.

“There are other fillies in the race, but I think Melt and Media Sensation have probably got the form around them to suggest they will be the hardest to beat.” Chitty will head down to Riccarton on Saturday and will be joined by her other part-owners, some of which are experiencing their first foray into racehorse ownership.

“It’s a Group 1 race, so it’s the ultimate,” Chitty said. “I am going to get out of the crush and head down for race day on Saturday, I’m looking forward to it,” he said.

“The boys from the Hawke’s Bay will be there with bells on. A couple of them are new to racing, so they are pretty spoilt to be getting a run in a Group 1 with their first horse.”

Haunui Farm will also be well-represented in the race by their stallions. Melt will be carrying the flag for her sire Iffraaj and former shuttle stallion Showcasing will be represented by both Xpression and stakes-placed filly Wekaforce.

“Both Melt and Xpression were bred on the farm, they were paddock mates at one stage,” Chitty said.

“Wekaforce is there as well. She’s a Showcasing that is owned by a syndicate put together by Janine and Les Wallace who were shareholders in Showcasing, so it’s great to see a filly of her quality in the field as well.”