Hawke’s Bay training duo Guy Lowry and Grant Cullen have come up trumps in the barrier draw for the Group 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton Park on Saturday.
Their stakes placed filly Mohaka has drawn barrier one and dual stakes winner and race-favourite Xpression will jump from barrier two.
“We will try to ride Mohaka quite positively and hopefully Xpression can get a cosy run in behind them somewhere, barrier two is better than an outside draw and it’s a big track,” Lowry said.
The pair have been stabled together at Les and Richard Didham’s Riccarton training operation but they don’t work together and have taken different paths to the Group 1 feature.
A Group 2 winner over 1200m at two, Xpression finished second in the Group 3 Gold Trail Stakes (1200m) at Hawke’s Bay before her last start win in the Group 3 Barneswood Farm Stakes (1400m) at Ashburton and she’s since trialled over 900m at Motukarara on November 8.
“She has done extremely well since her win in the Barneswood Farm Stakes and she has just thrived since arriving down here,” Lowry said.
“We just thought it would be four weeks between runs, so we gave her a nice quiet trial.”
While he can’t fault Xpression’s fitness heading into the 1000 Guineas, Lowry does concede the step up to a mile is a concern.
“Mohaka can go a mile because she’s raced over a mile but Xpression hasn’t raced over a mile. There’s always concerns until they’ve gone over 1600m.”
Mohaka finished third at her first start over 1600m at Riccarton on October 27. The Nadeem filly has finished in the top three in her four career starts albeit in lesser company than what her stablemate has been facing.
The pair have only clashed on one occasion, at Taupo over 1100m, with first starter Mohaka finishing a length third to Xpression who won the race when resuming as a three-year-old.
“Xpression has a good turn of foot and Mohaka is probably more of an Oaks filly and a bit more dour,” Lowry said.
Premiership winning jockey Samantha Collett has the chance to land the first Group 1 win of her career as she continues her association with Xpression while Jake Bayliss rides Mohaka.
Lowry identified the Nigel Tiley-trained Melt and the Peter and Dawn Williams-trained Media Sensation as the horses to beat.