Pericles primed to strike at Ellerslie

Pericles (NZ)
Pericles will contest the Group 3 Mufhasa Stakes (1400m) at Ellerslie on Saturday. Photo: Kenton Wright (Race Images)

Breakthrough performer Pericles will be out to continue a remarkable summer for his part-owners Hugh Fletcher and Dame Sian Elias when he lines up in the Group 3 Mufhasa Stakes (1400m) at Ellerslie on Saturday.

The pair’s familiar Fletcher tartan colours have been carried to eight wins since the end of November. Pendragon has been a headline act with a winning treble headed by the Group 2 Auckland Guineas (1400m). He was a last-start second placegetter behind Orchestral in the $1.5 million Karaka Millions 3YO (1600m), and he will shoot for Group One glory in Saturday’s Australian Guineas (1600m) at Flemington.

Pendragon is trained by Mike Moroney and Pam Gerard, who have also guided Pericles through an increasingly impressive three-year-old campaign of his own.

The Rubick gelding cleared maiden ranks as a $22 upset winner at Rotorua on December 10, then repeated that result with a $28 boilover in a 1400m race at Pukekohe on January 21.

The Listed Uncle Remus Stakes (1200m) at Ellerslie on February 17 brought more of the same as Pericles started as a $30 outsider but powered out of the pack for an authoritative win.

“He’s just kept improving all the way through,” Gerard said. “It was a really good win at Ellerslie last start and he seems to have continued to go in that same positive direction since the race as well, which is encouraging.”

Pericles is a grandson of Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) and Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) heroine Ethereal, and Gerard expects the step back up from 1200m to 1400m on Saturday to be firmly in his favour.

“It should suit him even better than the last race,” she said. “He’d won over 1400m previously and we just dropped him back for the Uncle Remus. He’s definitely looking for a bit further.

“We’ll see what he does on Saturday before deciding what we do next with him. There’s not a whole lot left for three-year-olds like him, but the Wellington Guineas (Gr.2, 1400m) might be an option, or maybe there might be something in Australia for him. We’ll take it one race at a time and see what happens.”

Another notable recent performer for Fletcher and Elias has been the Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott-trained Kingfisher, who was a last-start winner of a $65,000 race on Legends Day at Te Rapa on February 10 and will run in an $80,000 undercard race at Ellerslie on Saturday, while talented filly Foxglove was a maiden winner at Matamata in January for the same stable and will run against Pericles in Saturday’s Mufhasa Stakes.

Moroney and Gerard’s accomplished seven-year-old Harlech will carry those same colours in Saturday’s inaugural running of the $350,000 Rangitoto Classic (1500m). The new race is restricted to horses whose trainers were outside the top 10 on the New Zealand premiership at the end of November.

Moroney and Gerard fit those criteria, despite now sitting in equal 10th with 24 winners, total stakes of $1.15 million – the best in the partnership’s decade-long history – and black-type successes with Pendragon, Pericles and last Saturday’s Gr.3 Matamata Slipper (1200m) hero Savaglee.

The Matamata trainers will have two runners in the Rangitoto Classic on Saturday, with Harlech joined by eye-catching last-start placegetter Lingjun Xiongfeng.

“He (Lingjun Xiongfeng) was really good last time out,” Gerard said. “He was just doing a little bit too well at home, so we decided to get another race into him and at the same time give him a look around Ellerslie. It was all about having him in prime condition for his main target in this campaign, which is this race. I’ve been very happy with how he’s been working leading into it. He should be spot on.

“I thought Harlech’s last run was better than it might have looked. We possibly should have ridden him a little bit handier. He just got caught out when the pace came out of the race, and he was pushed back through the field. He did a good job under the circumstances.

“He’s drawn out a little bit for this race, but if we’re able to give him a better run, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him finish a lot closer.”

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