Group 1 New Zealand Cup (3200m) aspirant Major Tom will have one more run in the C S Stevens Memorial Banks Peninsula Cup (2200m) at Motukarara on Sunday before he contests the two-mile Riccarton feature later this month.
The Ken Rae and Krystal Williams-Tuhoro-trained runner has been in strong form of late, winning his last start over 2100m at Ashburton and placing in his two previous starts this spring.
The five-year-old gelding will carry 62.5kg and will jump from the outside barrier in the 10 horse field and his connections are taking a cautious approach into Sunday’s race.
“I’d rather get that draw now than in two weeks’ time,” Rae said. “He won with 60.5kg (last- start), so he should be competitive with 62.5kg. “The Banks Peninsula Cup is really just another run for him heading into the New Zealand Cup, that’s why I didn’t claim on the weight.
“I mainly didn’t claim because he can be a tough horse to ride. Jasmine Fawcett was going to ride him, but she’s suspended, so I left Sam Collett on and at this stage she is riding him in the New Zealand Cup.”
Rae said he was initially not going to bring Major Tom south, but after placing behind He’s Cavalier in the Ruakaka Cup (2200m) he was convinced by Michael Pitman and Noel Harris to aim him towards the New Zealand Cup.
“He has actually been in work right through winter,” Rae said. “He wasn’t going to come down.
“When he ran third behind He’s Cavalier, I thought the other horse wasn’t that good. But he’s come out and won on Wednesday and placed in a stakes race, so it’s better than I thought it was.
“Michael Pitman and Noel Harris did and talked me into it. Pitman told me to definitely bring him down and he knows more about South Island racing than anybody.”
Rae has taken six other horses south for the New Zealand Cup carnival, including Kaharau and Prom Queen, and he said they have all settled in well at their Prebbleton base.
“Prom Queen is going straight to the Stewards and she is probably going to get in on the minimum weight,” Rae said. “Kaharau is going to the middle day (of the New Zealand Cup carnival) over 2000m. He’s come back good as gold, but the other day (when he ran sixth at Ashburton) the race wasn’t run to suit him, he just couldn’t sprint with that big weight (60kg).”