Cambridge trainer Lauren Brennan is looking forward to dodging top sprinting mares Levante and Entriviere as she attacks the Group 1 El Cheapo Cars WFA Group One Classic (1600m) at Otaki on Saturday with Packing Rockstar and Vigor Winner.
For Brennan, who has a boutique stable of racehorses, it is a significant achievement to have two runners in a Group One race.
“We’ve only got a small stable so to get any runners to a Group race, let alone two runners in a Group One is a huge thrill,” she said.
Packing Rockstar won the Group 3 J Swap Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa in December prior to finishing fourth in the Group 1 Railway (1200m) on New Year’s Day to Entriviere, who was at the top of her game that day.
He last raced when finishing seventh in the Group 1 Telegraph (1200m) won by Levante at Trentham in mid January, and missed a planned engagement in the Group 1 BCD Group Sprint (1400m) when the track came up slow, where Levante edged out Entriviere in one of the races of the season.
Brennan was pleased neither of the star mares were aimed towards Saturday’s Otaki feature and senses an opportunity as Packing Rockstar is tested over 1600m for only the second time in his career.
While the muscular son of Fastnet Rock and juvenile Group One winner Anabandana does not look a natural miler, his only start over 1600m netted an on-pace victory in the Group 2 Japan Trophy at Tauranga last year.
“He is a good sprinter and he’s got good form over the sprint distances but this season we’ve had such a phenomenal quality of sprinters,” Brennan said.
“We could have possibly run in the Thorndon Mile (Group 1, 1600m) but we hadn’t nominated and decided against putting in a late nomination so this is the first chance we’ve had at a mile really.
“It was a shame he missed the 1400m race (BCD Group Sprint) to step up to the mile, but I don’t think it will be a problem for him.
“He missed the start in the Telegraph and it was all over from there. He got a bump coming out of the gates and he raced in an unusual position further back. He was on the back foot from the get-go. He hit the line nice and strong and passed a few.
“Hopefully he relaxes and Jonathan (Riddell, jockey) can get him out in a nice galloping action out in front or just behind the speed.”
Seven-time winner Vigor Winner did compete in the Thorndon Mile last start, finishing seventh, beaten less than six lengths by The Chosen One and will be reunited with jockey Dylan Turner who rode him to victory at Awapuni back in November.
Brennan took Packing Rockstar and Vigor Winner to Ellerslie for a gallop between races last Saturday and was happy with how they both went.
“Vigor Winner went a good race in the Thorndon Mile and probably should have finished closer. He got stopped for a run and I am very pleased with where he is at,” Brennan said.
Though they don’t have to face the two top mares, the field is still a good one as it includes BCD Sprint third placegetter Mascarpone and three leading chances from Te Akau Stables in Amarelinha, Brando, and Markus Aurelius.
“It’s certainly not an easy race,” she said. “They’re all hard, and with three Te Akau horses there it will be hard, they’re always competitive in the group races. We’ve just got to hope our horses get a good trip and they’re on their A game.”
Closer to home, Brennan put in a late entry for the Group 3 Fairview Matamata Slipper (1200m) with Zaher after nominations were left open an extra day due to just six horses being originally entered.
Zaher has shown good form in his three starts to date, winning on debut at Otaki prior to finishing third in the Listed Wellesley Stakes (1100m) at Trentham on January 15 and fourth in the Group 3 Platinum Homes 2YO Classic (1200m) at Te Rapa on February 12.
“He’s come through his race at Te Rapa in super order so it’s worth taking a shot at this race,” Brennan said.
“He’s definitely more of a three-year-old type, he’s still got some growing to do, and once he gets over a mile we should see an even better horse.
“He’s really over-achieved as a two-year-old, and I think we’ll have more fun with him next season.”