Group 1 performer Vernanme has been lapping up the beach life at trainer Stephen Marsh’s satellite stable at Ruakaka during his spring preparation, but it has been back to reality this week for the talented galloper.
The son of O’Reilly is preparing for his first stakes test of the spring at Counties on Sunday, the Listed Haunui Farm Karaka Classic (1600m), and he has returned to his Cambridge home base after his runner-up performance over 1400m at Ruakaka late last month. “He has been terrific, he has spent most of his time up at the beach,” Marsh said. “He has been back here this week and had a little breeze-up this morning and worked up beautifully. “I really liked his run at Ruakaka, he was a bit fresh,” Marsh said. “He jumped and travelled a little bit forward to how he really wants to be.”
Vernanme will jump from barrier eight in the mile feature on Sunday and Marsh believes he will be ideally suited to the step-up in distance. “Side winkers back on, he will push in behind the speed and I think the step up to the mile at Counties, where he has won, is really going to suit him,” Marsh said. “I think he is a really nice chance.”
TAB bookmakers agree with Marsh’s sentiments and have installed Vernanme as a $3 favourite ahead of last start Listed Rangitikei Gold Cup (1600m) winner Hinerangi at $4.80 and Group 3 winner Concert Hall at $6. Vernanme is on a path towards the Group 1 Livamol Classic (2040m) at Hastings on October 5 where he will be met by stablemate Crown Prosecutor.
Last season’s Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) winner will contest the Group 1 Windsor Park Plate (1600m) at Hastings on Saturday and his trainer thinks he is a better chance than what bookmakers have labelled him. “He is going from the 1200m (first-up run at Ruakaka), which was well short of his best, but he’s back up to the mile with blinkers back on,” Marsh said. “I don’t think he deserves to be 50-1. It is a nice field, Melody Belle is freakish, but I think he will be competitive and will be better suited next start in the Livamol. “He has drawn really well (barrier three). He will be able to jump and put himself in a very forward position.”
Meanwhile, Marsh will contest the Group 3 Hawke’s Bay Breeders’ Gold Trail Stakes (1200m) with dual stakes-placed filly Appellant earlier on the card at Hastings on Saturday. The daughter of Showcasing finished fifth to Saturday’s rival Kali over 1100m on the first day of the Hastings spring carnival and although he is happy with the filly heading into Saturday, Marsh said her wide gate (barrier 13) is not ideal. “I thought her first-up run was terrific. It’s just a real shame she has drawn out wide, so we are going to get back a bit. That is going to make it hard. “She is going well, I just wish she had drawn a barrier.”