A week ago, the chances of talented four-year-old Frontman contesting the Group 1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) at Hastings looked slim, but a host of contributing factors have resulted in a change of heart.
The Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained four-year-old ventures to Hawke’s Bay for the first Group One contest of the New Zealand racing season on the back of a strong win in a 1400m Open Handicap at Te Rapa last weekend, and a forecast rain-affected track should not hinder his prospects.
“It was probably just the likelihood of a dead to slow track,” Forsman said.
“Seeing him race so well at Te Rapa, he was probably a little bit more forward and sharper than we thought he would be. He has bounced through that really well, so we feel there is no reason not to go down and have a crack at a Group One.
“Two of the ones that were going to be the hardest to beat won’t be there (Catalyst and Tavi Mac) and if it is going to be a slow track, which it is looking likely, that would be perfect for him.
“I thought it was a very brave win last week. He covered a fair bit of ground. Kozzi (Asano) rode to instruction and stayed out of trouble and kept him rolling and I thought it was a very game win first up on what was a relatively testing track. He really hit the line hard and had that will to win.”
Entering the weight-for-age contest at just his eighth start, Forsman describes the well-bred entire as very straight-forward.
“He has a great attitude and fingers crossed that stays the case. He is very switched on and is genuine,” he said.
“We aren’t going into it with massive expectations, but we feel he is good enough to be competitive, and it is hard to know at weight for age how they will measure up.
“I think in this company, 1400m is as short as he wants is, a mile would have been ideal.
“We could have waited for the middle day in a couple of weeks’ time but that could easily be on a firm track which might not suit. We will take this opportunity and see how he stacks up.”
While Frontman is a +2000 outsider in the Tarzino Trophy, Turn The Ace is the +250 second elect in the Listed El Roca – Sir Colin Meads Trophy (1200m) as he looks to kick-off a Group 1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) campaign.
Turn The Ace is an unbeaten son of Windsor Park Stud stallion Turn Me Loose, who in addition to the Baker-Forsman galloper is also represented by black-type runners Bifrost and Ancient Girl in Guineas Preludes at Caulfield.
“As long as the track isn’t too wet, Turn The Ace will start,” Forsman said.
“It does look a suitable race, but we are a bit nervous about kicking him off on a rain affected track just because he is probably short a trial leading into it. He will be vulnerable fitness wise, but we feel we need to make a start with him.
“Physically he is probably similar to last season, he is quite raw and will take a bit of racing to come to it.
“We will run in these better races as a three-year-old and see where you stack up and work towards something like the 2000 Guineas.
Another commencing her Classic campaign for the Cambridge trainers is Mustang Valley, who impressed in her three starts at two, boasting a win and a runner-up placing, as well as a fourth in Listed company.
The daughter of Vanbrugh will take on strong company in the Group 3 Hawke’s Bay Breeders’ Gold Trail Stakes (1200m) including unbeaten filly Imperatriz.
“She is in the same boat as Turn The Ace of being a trial short of being fully wound up for it. Her work has been very good this week. I think we have seen enough as a two-year-old that she will measure up. She has a good draw (6), a good jockey (Vinnie Colgan) so I think she will run very well albeit against horses that will be a little more forward than she is,” Forsman said.
“I think a mile against her own age group won’t be beyond her. She has a relaxed way of going at the races and she should hopefully hit the line well over 1200m and should be looking for the 1400m perhaps next time around.”
The Baker and Forsman team will saddle six runners at Hawke’s Bay on Saturday, where the track was a Slow 8 on Friday, while Group Two winner Robusto will contest an Open Mile at Te Aroha on Sunday in what is set to be her final campaign.
“She will be covered by Hello Youmzain (new Cambridge Stud stallion) in the next few weeks and we will probably work towards a New Zealand Cup (Group 3, 3200m) with her. Any further black-type we can pick up would be a plus,” Forsman said.