Comeback trainer Katrina Alexander is hoping to cap a fairytale return to racing when saddling Tinker Mcphee, the $3.10 favourite, in Saturday’s Group 1 Barneswood Farm New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton.
The Matamata horsewoman reapplied for her trainer’s licence last season in partnership with husband Simon to fulfil the request made by her son Jackson shortly before his passing in June last year from melanoma skin cancer. Alexander is pinching herself that after a five-year hiatus from racing she enters with a leading Group 1 chance so soon into her return, and she is pleased with the progress of Tinker Mcphee since her eye-catching run for third in the Group 2 James And Annie Sarten Memorial Stakes (1400m).
“It has been business as usual with her and she has remained very consistent in her work and she has continued to eat well. I couldn’t be happier with her,” Alexander said. “After her last run it gives me a lot of confidence she will get the mile. We had no option but to drop her back due to the wide draw that day, but that was a good test to get her to settle and to run on over a further trip. “It was encouraging looking ahead to the mile to know that she can settle and relax like that.”
Equity was sold in the lightly-tried filly to offshore interests after a slashing maiden victory at Matamata prior to her Group 2 placing, and as a result Tinker Mcphee will be having her last start for the Alexanders on Saturday before relocating across the Tasman to Chris Waller’s stable.
Sam Weatherley retains the ride and will be aided by barrier 2, which gives the versatile daughter of Nostradamus plenty of options. “Just looking at what’s drawn around us, I imagine she will try and hold her place rather than needing to drop back, but we will let it unfold around us,” Alexander said. “She is proving to be versatile as to where we can put her.”
Alexander, whose career highlight is the 2003 Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m) victory of Honor Babe, said it would be particularly special to win the Guineas with husband Simon recognised as co-trainer. “To land a Group 1 with Simon would be great. It would be a hell of a fairytale really, but we’re realistic with racing,” she said. “We will present the horse in the best possible manner and the rest will be up to her on the day.”
Alexander is grateful for the support they have received since returning to racing, including the backing of Tinker Mcphee’s owner Richard Boyd. “In a short period of time we have already had a smart filly in Alchemia get black-type, as well as Tinker Mcphee, and to do that in our first season back is quite remarkable. If someone said that would happen, you would have said you’re dreaming. “We have been very lucky with the young horses that we have had around us during this period back and building a team again is hard, so to get some fillies like this with plenty of talent does mean a lot.”
Alexander was doing her best to ignore the external pressure that comes with Guineas favouritism. “I probably put more pressure on myself to produce a horse in the correct form and not to let her down on what decisions we make,” she said. “I tend not to worry too much about the rest of it, but it will probably be a completely different story come raceday,” she said.