A TRIAL win at Foxton last week has Group Two Hawke’s Bay Guineas winner Hard Merchandize on target for a northern test next month.
Freshened since finishing a gallant third behind Sumstreetsumwhere in the Group Two James & Annie Sarten Memorial Stakes at Te Rapa, Hard Merchandize contested an open 1000m Foxton trial and with Dylan Turner in the saddle the horse scored a long neck win.
“It was a nice trial, a run just to keep him ticking over,” his Awapuni trainer Gary Vile said.
“He had a week in the paddock after the Sarten Memorial and needed a nice hit-out.
“The plan is to take him north next start for the Bonecrusher Stakes at Ellerslie to give him a look right-handed. He’s had no problem working right-handed but I just want him to have that raceday experience.”
The Group Three Bonecrusher Stakes is on Saturday week and Vile feels the timing is right for Hard Merchandize.
“The main aim is the $1 million Karaka three-year-old race in January and I’m just working out a path to get there,” Vile said.
“I’m thinking of maybe running him in the Kamada Park Stakes here (at Awapuni) as a lead-up. It’s weight-for-age and he’ll get in on 53kg. It could be a nice race for him if he’s going well.”
The Group Two Manawatu Challenge Stakes is on December 23 so Hard Merchandize still has just over a month before its Karaka Million 3YO Classic goal on January 27.
Vile has always had a high opinion of Hard Merchandize and punters got to finally realise the horse’s talent when it led throughout to beat a classy field in three-year-olds in the Hawke’s Bay Guineas last month.
The horse then backed up that form with a courageous run for third in the Sarten Memorial after being checked early in the run home.
“It was only two or three months ago that if he got a knock like that on the turn he wouldn’t have handled it, but he can take it now,” Vile said. “That’s how much he’s improved.
“He had two hard runs, in the Hawke’s Bay Guineas and the Sarten Memorial, so he needed the week off. It’s freshened him right up.”
Vile also won an open 1200m trial at Foxton last Tuesday with his promising stayer Rock On, winner of the Listed Lincoln Farms NZ St Leger at Trentham last March.
Rock On was sent to John Sargent’s stable in Sydney after its St Leger win and ran third to Big Duke first-up in the Group Two Chairmans Handicap at Randwick then headed down to Melbourne, where it finished third over 2500m at Flemington.
The horse has had four starts since rejoining Vile’s stable with its most recent outing resulting in a seventh behind Maygrove in the Listed Ricoh Feilding Gold Cup at Awapuni.
“He didn’t get round the short course here at Palmy. It suits more on-pace runners since they put the new corner in,” Vile said.
“For that reason I’m going to bypass the Manawatu Cup and instead he can head up to Te Rapa for the Waikato Cup. The roomy Te Rapa track will suit him better.”
Rock On, a five-year-old son of Road To Rock, holds nominations for the Group Three Wallaceville Estate Wellington Cup at Trentham on January 20 and the Group One Auckland Cup at Ellerslie on March 10