New Zealand Derby (2400m) hopes Formidable and Owen Patrick have the opportunity at Ellerslie on Sunday to boost their classic prospects.
The stablemates will step out in Sunday’s Listed Auckland Age Group Concerns 3YO Salver (2100m) in bids to take the financial pressure off securing starts in March’s Vodafone-sponsored feature.
“It probably hasn’t been the greatest lead-up to the Derby, but in this case if they can bank some money it puts us in a more comfortable position,” Cambridge trainer Shaune Ritchie said.
“If we can get as much prize-money as possible, we can give them 10 days off and then push on to the big dance.”
Formidable, a son of Shocking, had twice finished runner-up before he broke through at Avondale over 1600m last time out.
“He won a soft maiden race as an odds-on favourite and while he may not have been that impressive, he’s a real staying horse,” Ritchie said.
Owen Patrick placed in his first two appearances, but was caught wide on a slow pace when out of the frame in the Listed Trevor Eagle Memorial (1500m).
“He’s been racing against the better quality fields without any luck,” Ritchie said. “He’s drawn wide in all three runs and he’s got the outside gate again on Sunday.
“There’s not much between my two and they have both been looking for more ground pretty much since they walked through the stable gate.”
Leith Innes will ride Formidable and Sam Weatherley continues his association with Owen Patrick