Jockey Shaun McKay has elected to ride Cavallo Veloce over stablemate Langkawi in the Group 3 Bonecrusher Stakes (1400m) at Ellerslie on Saturday.
“It’s been a hard decision for him, but he’s always had a lot of faith in Cavallo Veloce,” McKay’s father Peter, who trains the pair, said.
“I just said to him Langkawi is probably going to be the better horse once they get to the mile and beyond, but he’s a bit lucky, he can always get back on again.”
In the interim Grant Cooksley has picked up the ride on Langkawi, who has had five starts for four second placings and a win.
“Unless I’m mistaken Langkawi will be going to the Derby, but I’m starting to think Cavallo Veloce might be just a little bit better from 1200m to a mile,” McKay said.
The Matamata trainer who prepared Puccini to win the Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) in 2014 has nominated three horses for the blue-riband event in March, including Cavallo Veloce.
“We paid up because his half-brother Charles Road has been going over ground, but my gut feeling is that he’ll probably be best up to a mile,” McKay said. “But you never know, class three-year-olds can sometimes push it out past their limits.
“When Puccini was racing up to a mile, jockeys were coming in and saying that he was racing too fiercely and that he wouldn’t get over further and then we changed his style of racing and suddenly he loved the extra distance.”
Already stakes-placed on two occasions, Cavallo Veloce broke maiden ranks when winning over 1200m at Tauranga at his most recent start and McKay is pleased with his progress.
“His work has been good so we’re happy with him,” he said. “The 1400m will suit him down to the ground.
“He’s got a nice draw (2) and he can just take a sit, his trial wins and even his better races have been when he’s been able to relax and then just finish it off, so he’ll be able to possie up just behind the leaders and then have the last say at them.”
Langkawi hasn’t raced since winning at Hawke’s Bay in October.
“We put him out for a week or so and then he came back, and he just had a touch of a virus,” McKay said.
“He’s had a lot of work stacked into him because he was going to go down to Otaki last week, but when it came up a Slow8 I didn’t trust the weather. As it turned out it ended up being a pretty good track, so I was kicking myself that we didn’t just accept and wait until the last minute.
“He’s from the same family as Puccini and he’s a half-brother to Amarula who was more of a sprinter-miler, but this guy is showing me more similarities to Puccini.
“He’s taking a while to click on to things but each step he’s gone he’s improved. He’s got that same will to be a good horse, every start he’s always dug down deep to try and win.” McKay also prepares The Mitagator who has drawn barrier 12 in Saturday’s Dunstan Feeds 1500 Championship Qualifier (1500m).
“There’s a couple in there that go in or near the lead so hopefully we can just take a sit on them,” he said.
“He’s been dominant in a couple of races where he got the lead and then got away with a couple of cheap sectionals. He was able to sprint off the front, but you can only do that a couple of times before they wake up to you.”