Cambridge trainer Tony Pike will venture to Matamata on Saturday with an in-form quartet of runners.
Amongst them are youngsters Pacific Dragon and Khufu, while consistent types Rapid Falls and River Run also look hard to beat.
Pike hopes to get the day off to a flyer when last-start Te Rapa winner Rapid Falls contests the opening race, the Te Akau Racing 1600m.
Rapid Falls won on a heavy track last start, conditions she will face again on Saturday with Matamata rated a Heavy11.
“Rapid Falls is a lightly raced mare that is only starting to strengthen and mature now,” Pike said.
“She was pretty dominant the other day and as long as that hasn’t taken the edge off her, she should run well again on Saturday.”
Two-year-old filly Pacific Dragon takes on a small field of six juveniles in the Transport Mechanical Waharoa Ltd 1000m and has shown good ability in her two trials at Cambridge on the synthetic, but is an unknown quantity on heavy ground.
The daughter of Charm Spirit was a NZD$70,000 Karaka purchase and will have supporters tuning in from across the Tasman.
“She’s a nice filly that was bought by (Ballarat trainer) Henry Dwyer at the sales,” Pike said.
“Swettenham Stud owns her and it is great that they have left a horse in New Zealand to race with us.
“They have left her here a) to try and get some black-type as an early two-year-old and b) to hopefully have a Karaka Million runner.
“She is a good style of filly that has trialled up really well and is still learning the game, but I would say she is going to be competitive on Saturday from what she has shown us at home.”
Pike was pleased to see Khufu land a confidence-boosting win last start, and although the son of American Pharoah is entered over 1300m on Saturday, Pike is considering waiting an extra week due to the track conditions and heading to the Group 2 Hawke’s Bay Guineas (1400m).
“As he is starting to mature, and especially with his pedigree, he is going to be a lot better up to a mile and possibly further,” Pike said.
Staying gelding River Run has raced well throughout the winter and Pike is confident that with just 54kgs to carry the seven-year-old will be around the money again in an open handicap over 2000m.
Meanwhile, across the Tasman, the stable’s Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) hopeful Sherwood Forest steps out to 1800m at Sandown second-up after finishing 13th when resuming at Flemington.
“It was a bit of a shame that due to COVID he missed a run over a mile at Te Rapa and missed a trial at Cambridge before he went,” Pike said.
“He was going over there pretty underdone and got caught three-deep first-up. He loomed on the corner and knocked up late, which was to be expected.
“His work has apparently been very good through the week but he is still probably a run away from his peak.”