Another bold showing is expected from an improved Marroni on Saturday when he steps out at Randwick in his second Australian appearance.
The son of Makfi produced an encouraging performance on debut across the Tasman and has progressed well ahead of a crack at the Group 3 Sharp Extensive IT JRA Plate (2000m).
The five-year-old will be the sole flagbearer at the Sydney fixture for trainers Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman, who are also well-represented on the domestic front with leading chances at Te Rapa and Hastings.
Marroni won the Group 3 Manawatu Cup (2230m) prior to Christmas and was unplaced when resuming at Ellerslie last month before he finished a last-start third in the Group 3 Neville Sellwood Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill.
“We were rapt with his run, he needed it and just came to the end of it. It was a super effort on a pretty testing track and it will be wet again on Saturday and he has improved a lot,” Forsman said.
The form out of that race has been franked by the winner Mount Popa, who ran third in last Saturday’s Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m).
“It’s another good and even field, but he’s certainly not out of it and we think he will be right there,” Forsman said.
At home, smart three-year-old Meritable is set down to resume in the Join Team Te Akau – Shares Available 3YO (1200m) at Te Rapa.
“We would have liked to have got one more trial into him, but it hasn’t worked out that way. If he does run on Saturday, it’s a little bit 50-50 from an awkward draw (10), he may need the run a touch,” Forman said.
Meritable is in line for a trip to Australia with connections considering a Queensland campaign for the son of Snitzel, who hasn’t been seen out since he ran second in the Group 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas.
“We would like to get a run into him because the owners would like to get him over to Brisbane, but it depends a bit if he runs this Saturday or not,” he said.
The Group 3 Fred Best Classic (1400m) at Eagle Farm is on Meritable’s radar should the offshore venture be confirmed.
“If he can win a race like that the ultimate aim would be to try and sneak into the Stradbroke (Group 1, 1200m), but there’s a lot of water to go under the bridge between now and then,” Forsman said.
Stablemate Spirit Of Baz will run in the Skycity Hamilton Handicap (2100m) after missing a trip to Awapuni for last week’s Group 3 Manawatu Breeders’ Stakes (200m).
“She just had a slight niggle which set her back a day or two. She hasn’t run for a while and is a little bit fresh and ideally would like a little bit of give in the track and she’s going very well,” Forsman said.
Meanwhile, Charm Spirit youngster Westwood has a recent trial win to back her claims in the Waikato Equine Veterinary Centre Stakes Prelude (1100m).
“She is quite smart and a real jump and run type, but she has drawn quite awkwardly (seven). She has been waiting a while for a run and is improving all the time,” Forsman said.
“Hopefully, she can have a run or two and then have a go at some stakes races toward the end of the season.”
The stable will also have two debut runners at Hastings with Shanlord in the Villa Maria 2YO (1300m) and St Lawrence, Marroni’s half-brother by Redwood, in the Thank You Community Trust 3YO (1400m).
The former is a son of Savabeel and the Group 1 Thorndon Mile (1600m) winner Stolen Dance and has been successful at the trials.
“He’s a really nice horse and we’ve got a fait bit of time for him. He’s a big, raw type and will make a better three-year-old over a bit more ground,” Forsman said.
“He has shown us enough ability and it will be no surprise to see him run well.
“St Lawrence has showed a bit at the trials, albeit on the Polytrack and it’s a bit hard to weigh up. He’s never had a trip away from home and it will be a good experience, but he has shown a good bit of toe out of the gates.”