Royal Performer will have one final hit-out at Ellerslie on Sunday before he prepares to defend his crown in the Group 1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) at Te Rapa on February 12.
The nine-year-old gelding has been lumbered with 62kg in the HR Fiskens & Sons LTD 1400, and while the distance is well short of his best, trainers Jenny and Bob Vance felt it was the best option ahead of the weight-for-age feature.
“The race will obviously be too short for him but I have got to get a race into him before the Herbie Dyke,” Bob Vance said.
“I didn’t think it was the right thing to take him all the way down to Wellington.
“If he runs a nice race I will be happy. It will just top him off for two weeks time at Te Rapa.”
Royal Performer placed in the Group 3 Eagle Technology Stakes (1600m) at Te Aroha when second-up in November and while he was unplaced in the Group 1 Captain Cook Stakes (1600m) and Group 1 Zabeel Classic (2000m) in his subsequent two starts, Vance said he did have his excuses.
“He has been a bit unlucky in some of the Group Ones, he has drawn the outside barrier and had to go back in some slowly run races. He just hasn’t had a lot of luck,” he said.
He subsequently finished fourth over 2100m at Ellerslie earlier this month and Vance said the race wasn’t run to suit.
“I know he carried a bit of weight (62kg) but he made his run from the 800m and I think he has only got a 400m sprint,” Vance said.
When asked to compare his charge to this time last year, Vance admitted Royal Performer is a little behind.
“He has taken a bit longer to come up this year,” he said.
“He was carrying a lot more condition when he started racing this time in. Hence, he has taken a few more runs than he did last year to get him really fit.
“We will try and defend it (Herbie Dyke) the best we can.”
Vance is also looking forward to heading to Ellerslie on Sunday with stablemate Destinys Girl who will attempt to break maiden ranks in the Belardo @ Haunui Farm 1200.
“She has only had a couple of starts,” Vance said. “Going back to 1200m might suit her a bit more than the 1400m.”
Meanwhile, Vance said he is making the most of racing at Ellerslie before it closes for 18 months after the Auckland Cup carnival for the installation of a StrathAyr Track.
“We are going to be doing a fair bit of travelling when that shuts down but we are going to get a much better track, so it is worth it,” Vance said.