Visits to Christchurch have been few and far between for Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott during their decade-long training partnership, but the Matamata pair have two strong reasons for venturing south this weekend.
The Wexford Stables trainers have combined for just nine runners at Riccarton since they went into partnership in the 2013-14 season, but they will send out a two-pronged attack on Saturday’s Group 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m).
O’Sullivan and Scott’s headline act is Molly Bloom, who soared to favouritism for the $500,000 fillies’ classic with an outstanding come-from-behind maiden win at Taupo on September 15.
The daughter of Ace High has been unlucky in both of her two starts since then. She got too far back, raced greenly and encountered traffic trouble in a race dominated by on-pace runners at Hastings on October 14, ultimately finishing fifth and 1.2 lengths from the winner. She then struck severe interference in the incident-packed Group 2 Soliloquy Stakes (1400m) at Pukekohe two weeks later, crossing the line in a close fourth.
Molly Bloom remains at the head of the 1000 Guineas market, sitting at a quote of $4 on Friday morning.
“She certainly didn’t have the rub of the green in the Soliloquy last start, but we thought she ran a very good race despite that,” O’Sullivan said. “It was an encouraging performance heading into a race like the Guineas.
“She’s continued to go the right way in between times, and we think we’re sending her down to Christchurch in good shape.
“You never know for sure how a three-year-old is going to cope with the step up to 1600m until they try it, but everything about this filly and her bloodlines suggests to us that she should really appreciate that extra bit of ground.”
By Rich Hill Stud’s Derby-winning stallion Ace High and out of a half-sister to the multiple Group-winning staying mare Decorah, Molly Bloom was a $150,000 purchase by Wexford Stables as a yearling at Karaka last year.
Wexford paid $85,000 at the same sale to secure her stablemate Grande Gallo, who was rated a $21 chance for the 1000 Guineas earlier this week but has since been trimmed to $16.
The Belardo filly was unplaced in two starts as a two-year-old, but resumed with a desperately unlucky third at Tauranga early last month. She returned to the same venue a month later and made amends, producing an impressive finishing burst to win a 1400m maiden race with ease.
“She’s certainly a filly who’s made very good progress over the last few weeks,” O’Sullivan said.
“We’ve added blinkers for the race this weekend, and my feeling is that she’s actually not far inferior to the other filly. Time will tell on that, but I think she very much deserves the opportunity to run in the race as well.”