It could be another big day at Te Rapa for Te Akau Racing on Saturday.
The country’s leading stable has strong chances in three of the four stakes races at the premier meeting, including a couple of Group Two winners in the Group 2 David & Karyn Ellis Fillies Classic (2000m).
Belle En Rouge and Self Obsession will clash for the first time on their way to the Group 1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand Oaks (2400m) at Trentham next month and trainer Jamie Richards is looking forward to seeing how the race unfolds.
Both fillies head into the race in a fresh state after winning at Group level over a month ago.
Belle En Rouge was in hot form towards the end of last year, placing in the Group 3 Soliloquy Stakes (1400m) and Group 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) before winning the Group 3 Eulogy Stakes and Group 2 Eight Carat Classic (1600m).
Self Obsession has established a similarly impressive formline, winning two of her three starts, including the Group 2 Royal Stakes (2000m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day.
“They both had a bit of a freshen-up after their last runs, they were due a bit of a break,” Richards said. “It is great to have a couple of live chances in the boss’ race.
“Belle En Rouge had been quite busy in the South Island and then came back up and won the Eulogy and then the Eight Carat.
“We felt it was a good time to give them a freshen. They go into this race in good shape, but they do have improvement to come for their next start and then the Oaks.
“They will either run in the Lowland (Group 2, 2100m) or the Sunline Vase (Group 3, 2100m), we will just get through Saturday and make a decision from there.”
Richards is also looking forward to Entriviere continuing her rivalry with Levante in the Group 1 BCD Group Sprint (1400m).
The pair currently sit at one win apiece after Levante equalled the ledger when winning the Group 1 Telegraph (1200m) last month, with Entriviere disappointing in fifth.
“The Telegraph was a bit of a headscratcher. I expected her to be a really good winning chance and things didn’t go our way down there,” Richards said.
The daughter of Tavistock finished runner-up in her 1000m trial at Te Rapa last week, pleasing her trainer in the lead-up to the feature Te Rapa sprint.
“A month between runs we thought we would just take her back to the trials and give her a bit of confidence,” Richards said.
“We just wanted to see her jump out of the barrier, take a position and just cruise through the gears, which she did well.
“I was really impressed with how she trialled and her work has been good since then.
“We are looking forward to getting her out to 1400m. I don’t think the bit of rain that is around at the moment will be any concern for her either, she has shown that she can handle those sort of conditions.”
She will be joined in the race by Group 2 Coupland’s Bakeries Mile (1600m) winner Markus Aurelius, who finished ninth last start in the Group 3 Concorde Handicap (1200m) on Karaka Million night.
“Markus is going well. He just got a little caught in a hot speed in the Concorde, but 1400m will suit him better,” Richards said.
“He would prefer to be racing on Good ground and basically we are just trying to set him up for Otaki for the mile and this was a nice race for him to run in second-up in a new preparation.”
Maven Belle will be the stable’s sole representative in the Group 3 Platinum Homes 2YO Classic (1200m).
“Hopefully one is all we will need,” Richards said. “She is a nice filly and is going well. I am happy with her work and I am expecting her to be a nice chance.”
Richards will also be keeping a close eye across the Tasman where Group One winners Probabeel and Kahma Lass will kick-off their preparations in the Group 3 Geoffrey Bellmaine Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield.
“They are both going to kick off over 1200m against the mares,” Richards said. “I quite like the idea of just sneaking in under the radar and try and get a bit of confidence up rather than tackling the Orr (Group 1, 1400m) first-up.
“They have both been very effective over 1200m in a fresh state.”