Champion trainer Jamie Richards has weight of numbers on his side with a team of five fillies contesting Saturday’s Group 1 Barneswood Farm New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton.
Richards needs just one win to bring up 50 Group One victories in a career barely six years in the making.
But even with the talent of Imperatriz, The Perfect Pink, Belle En Rouge, Shepherd’s Delight and Irish Red heading into the fillies Classic, Richards felt he might need fortune on his side to emerge victorious.
“They are all in good shape. We’re really happy with the lot of them. But these races are hard to win and luck in running really does need to be taken into account in these big fields,” he said.
Richards saddled Kahma Lass to win last year’s 1000 Guineas, having produced Risque for success in 2015 when he was training in partnership with Stephen Autridge.
Last-start Group 3 Soliloquy Stakes (1400m) winner Imperatriz heads the final field market for the 1000 Guineas at +250 ahead of the Tony Pike-trained There You Go, with The Perfect Pink a +450 third favourite, Belle En Rouge at +1200, Shepherd’s Delight at +2500 and Irish Red at +3000.
But making it trickier for the favoured Richards pair is that Imperatriz has drawn the outside barrier of 16, with The Perfect Pink also facing a wide gate in barrier 14.
“Impreratriz has got to go back. That’s how we rode her at Matamata last time,” Richards said.
“She’s drawn the outside and I wouldn’t say she’s got the stamina to be able to sprint twice. I’m sure there will be genuine tempo in the race with such a full field and we’ll ride her for luck.
“The Perfect Pink is a filly that likes to relax and get home so she’ll have to go back too and hopefully find a bit of a cart into the race. It’s a shame those two fillies drew out a bit but it happens and you only have to go back to the New Zealand 2000 Guineas last week with Noverre to see that if they are good enough, they can come from back in the field.”
Imperatriz, Belle En Rouge and The Perfect Pink all contested the Soliloquy Stakes at Matamata last start, a race the last three 1000 Guineas have come through.
“It’s as good lead-up form as anything. But we’ve got healthy respect for There You Go and what she’s been able to do down there,” Richards said.
“I saw her at Riccarton the other morning and she’s a beautiful, big strapping filly. But the Soliloquy form usually stands up. It stood up last year for us with Kahma Lass and hopefully it does again this year.
“The three fillies flew down there last Thursday. They had a few quiet days to settle into a routine and they’ve all done really well. Shepherd’s Delight and Irish Red haven’t had to do any travel and they’ve both been going really well too.”
Unfortunately for connections of the Richards-trained Synchronise, that filly had to be withdrawn after running home strongly for third at Ashburton last week. She had surgery on Thursday to have bone chips removed from a fetlock.
Richards has a big weekend ahead with runners at Awapuni on Friday, Tauranga and Riccarton on Saturday and Waverley on Sunday.
Also racing at Riccarton are Leaderboard, Radegast, Fashion Shoot and Wednesday’s Group 3 Stewards Handicap (1200m) winner Summer Monsoon, backing up in the NZB Ready To Run Sale Premier (1400m).
Summer Monsoon was part of a stakes race double on Wednesday with Group 2 Coupland’s Bakeries Mile (1600m) winner Markus Aurelius with Zouluminous rounding out a treble after Noverre had given the stable the first day feature prize in the Group 1 2000 Guineas (1600m).
“It’s a big thrill taking three to the races and all three win, especially with two of them in Group races,” Richards said. “It was a job well done and it’s been a big effort by the team down there in Christchurch.”
Richards said Markus Aurelius would return home to spell, with a potential weight-for-age campaign in the late summer, targeting the Group 1 BCD Group Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa ahead of the Group 1 El Cheapo Cars WFA Group One Classic (1600m) at Otaki, both in February.
Richards’ other stakes runners for the weekend are Leaderboard in the Group 3 Martin Collins New Zealand Cup (3200m) and Mai Tai in the Group 2 Gartshore Tauranga Stakes (1600m).
“Mai Tai is in good order and she’s going really well but it’s a real problem that we’ve got with the riders,” Richards said.
“Basically there’s a nine-horse weight-for-age race and five of those runners will be ridden by apprentices. This really shows the lack of depth we’ve got in our riders’ ranks and that’s a big concern. Running two meetings with stakes races on a Saturday is something that really needs to be looked at.”
Both Mai Tai and Brando, who contests the O’Connor Warren Insurance Brokers Open (1400m) at Tauranga, will target the Group 1 Rydges Wellington Captain Cook Stakes (1600m) at Trentham on December 4.