Black-type winning stayer Ess Vee Are will return to New Zealand tracks on Saturday at Pukekohe, with trainers Darryn and Briar Weatherley hoping to commence a path towards key Cup races this summer.
The son of Shocking featured among the most promising stayers last season when placing behind Aquacade in the Stayers Championship Final (2400m), and was duly rewarded for his consistency when claiming the Listed New Zealand St Leger (2600m) at Trentham in March.
Darryn’s son Sam guided Ess Vee Are to his black-type victory and will be back in the saddle when the five-year-old contests the Dunstan Horsefeeds Championship Qualifier (2100m) this weekend.
“He’s doing well. He could be a little bit vulnerable not having run for some time and going into a 2100m, but his work has been satisfactory and we’re happy with him,” Darryn Weatherley said.
The Weatherleys had sent Ess Vee Are to Australia in search of further spoils this spring, however, the unsuitable tempo saw him unable to show his staying prowess across the Tasman.
“I felt in Aussie things just didn’t go his way, he didn’t settle or eat that well,” Weatherley said.
“His two runs, although they looked ordinary on paper, when you went through the sectionals he ran pretty good races. The staying races in Australia are run a bit differently to ours, they go quite hard early, pull them up to go slowly in the mid-stages and sprint on the corner.
“They cantered around then sprint home in 34 seconds, he can’t possibly run home in 31 from the back and that’s what he’d have to do to beat them. They weren’t terrible runs even though he got no chocolates.
“His best runs have been when the speed has been on throughout the race. When he won the St Leger, Sagunto was a strong leader so there was genuine pace. Ess Vee Are just keeps chipping away and gets over the top of them.”
Turning their focus to a new preparation, the five-year-old’s performance on Saturday will determine whether they look to the Group 3 Queen Elizabeth ll Cup (2400m) on New Year’s Day and the Group 3 Wellington Cup (3200m) later in January.
“Those are high up in our plans, but obviously he’s got to go well enough on Saturday to warrant those plans continuing,” Weatherley said.
Arby, a younger half-brother to stablemate Ess Vee Are, will also resume at Pukekohe in the Stella Artois Championship Qualifier (1400m), after culminating his three-year-old campaign with a midfield finish in the Group 1 Queensland Derby (2400m).
Prior to his one-run Australian stint, the son of Proisir had produced an impressive victory under Sam Weatherley in the Group 3 Manawatu Classic (2000m), while also weighing in on two other occasions at black-type level at three.
“His work has been really good, his trials have been nice and he’ll go a really honest race on Saturday,” Weatherley said.
“I’m not saying he can win it, but he’ll go nicely fresh and without earmarking anything in particular, there’s some really nice races over summer for him, if he comes up.
“He’s drawn a nice alley (1) so he’ll probably end up midfield or a space or two beyond that.
“With both runners we’re hoping the track dries up a bit, it’s a Heavy8 at the moment (Wednesday) and we’re hoping it’ll come back to a Soft6 or better. If Arby is hitting the line strong, we’ll be happy.”