Group One ambitions go on the line for promising Christchurch filly Aerial Blue at Timaru on Friday.
Riccarton trainer Lance Robinson has a high opinion of the Air Force Blue three-year-old, who resumes in the Mackenzie Supplies & Ivan Watt 1200, a possible stepping stone towards a start in the Group 1 Barneswood Farm New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton on November 13.
“We’re thrilled with her,” Robinson said.
“She was meant to run in the three-year-old race (Canterbury Belle Stakes) at Riccarton the other day but we had to pull her out because she had a temperature on the morning of the race which put us on the back foot.
“She went back to the trials after that and she was impressive so we think she’s on the right step going forward again. She’s quite a smart filly. She’s shown us a hell of a lot at home and she has all the way through.”
Aerial Blue was passed in as a yearling in Australia on a reserve of AUD$20,000 but it was there that she came to the attention of Chipmunks Playland & Cafe founders Kerri and Lance Spence, who were already established clients of Robinson’s.
“They are one of our biggest owners. They race Khimar War with us and probably have five or six horses with us. They love their racing,” Robinson said of the Spences.
“We were in lockdown at the time and Kerri was going through horses online and that’s how we managed to get her. She’s impressed us right the way through.”
Aerial Blue won her first trial and then ran fourth on debut at Riccarton last March, behind Mackenzie Lad, Fireglow and Art De Triomphe, that trio proving themselves among the best three-year-olds in the south at present.
Fireglow and Art De Triomphe both won fresh before the latter went on to triumph in the Listed Canterbury Belle Stakes (1200m) at Riccarton last month.
“She was only learning her way then too. She’s got a lot more ringcraft about her now, but so have they,” Robinson said.
“We were really impressed with last preparation and if she was to put her hand up tomorrow, we’d look at getting her to the Ashburton three-year-old race over 1400m (Group 3 Barneswood Farm Stakes on Saturday week).
“If she went well in that, then we’d have to make a decision on the Guineas from there. But she’d need to put her hand up in both of those races first.”
Robinson has three three-year-olds entered in the 1200m maiden, with Vadamos filly Satellite on debut after two trials for a win and a narrow defeat and Highly Recommended gelding Highland Fling having his second start after finishing fifth on debut at Wingatui last month.
“We think Satellite is a smart filly too. We think a lot of her and she’s trialled up super. She’s a lovely big, strong filly and she’ll be round about it too,” Robinson said.
“Highland Fling has drawn out a bit but he went a really good race on a Heavy 10 track at Wingatui for fifth at his first start and he’s come on with the run too.
“I like the three of them. They are all nice horses, all in with a chance.”
Robinson will also line up Avaquinella in the NZB Insurance Pearl Series Race (1200m) and last-start winner Burnvue in the Central South Island Owners & Trainers 1600.
“Avaquinella will improve a ton with that race. She never got into the race from a wide draw. She was off the track the whole way and it was a strong Riccarton field first-up. She’s really come on with that run, has a good draw and I expect her to run well.
“Burnvue has really turned the corner. He’s been hard work. He’s a tough bugger. He’s really professional now but he wasn’t early on. He’s kept improving. He’s first-up in 65 grade but I thought Timaru midweek was a good option for him. He’s got a good draw and he begins well. His work has been good and he’ll run well too.”
Meanwhile, Robinson was pleased with the trials of open-class gallopers Khimar War and Live Drama, who deadheated in an 880m open heat on the all-weather track at Riccarton on Tuesday. He said both would resume at Ashburton on Saturday week.