Shaune Ritchie is glad at what looks like a long-overdue break in the weather as he puts two of his three-year-olds on trial for Riccarton next month.
The New Zealand trainer is starting both Goldburg and The Racketeer in the Group 2 James and Annie Sarten Memorial Stakes (1400m) at Te Rapa on Saturday, taking on black type-winning three-year-olds such as Dynastic and Mr Mojo Risin'.
Both still hold nominations for the Group 1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton on November 5.
Ritchie said Te Rapa looked in good order for New Zealand Bloodstock's Ready to Run Sale breeze-ups on Monday, and with better weather predicted up to Saturday, he was hoping it would benefit his pair.
“You're at that time of the year where the wet tracks have disturbed a few campaigns and now that the tracks are drying, the form might turn around,” said Ritchie, who trains in partnership with Colm Murray.
“There hasn't been a dominant three-year-old so far, and both of my horses are deserving of their chance, but they've really got to put up their hands on Saturday to warrant the trip to Christchurch.”
Goldburg may be the more fancied of Ritchie's pair, having won on the Cambridge synthetic in August and then coming from last to beat all but The Intimidator in a Matamata three-year-old 1400m contest earlier this month.
“He drew seven out of seven and by design we took him out of the race so he'd learn to run the mile out, but he just popped his head on his belly and dropped two lengths behind them after probably jumping in front,” Ritchie said.
“It's great that he's got the brain to be able to do that because there's no need for him to get so far back if he draws a good barrier.”
The Racketeer showed talent when winning at Ruakaka on September 10 prior to finishing fourth at Te Rapa over 1400m on September 30, and Ritchie said he is still learning.
“I thought The Racketeer was probably my best three-year-old going into the season for ability, but he's still just struggling to get it right. Unlike Goldburg, he's still a little bit race dumb,” Ritchie said.
“If he can get some cover and relax, I think he's got sufficient talent. He's got to be a little race sharper, but he's also one I'm looking forward to getting on a good track.”
Ritchie and Murray are set to be busy at Te Rapa on Saturday as they have four other horses set to run.
Rocket Lad and Samina Bibi both contest a Rating 75 1600m event and Ritchie said both were ready for the task.
Rocket Lad took on black type company as a three-year-old without success but has returned to racing with two 1500m victories on the Cambridge Synthetic, wins that Ritchie said had been helpful.
“He ran on the synthetic just because they were the driest tracks and the softest options available to get his confidence up, and the way he's winning is extremely impressive,” he said.
“It's not easy for horses to step from a maiden to a 65 and then to a 75 in three starts, but he looks a cups horse to us.
“We've now got a mature horse. We've booked Opie Bosson, and his feedback will be paramount to his summer campaign.”
Samina Bibi can be hard to follow for punters but Ritchie said that was because she was reluctant to take gaps and needed clear air and a strong pace to be competitive.
“Each time she's won she's had plenty of space and come around them. She'll be ridden cold and no doubt she'll find the line,” he said.
Dazzling Miss returns to the turf on Saturday for a Rating 75 1300m event after a great winter on the synthetic track which included three victories and a third at her last four starts, but Ritchie said she could be a run short.
“She hasn't had a trial so she could need a run for a 1300m race fresh up, but she'll certainly be one to follow. I see her as a mare who could be a lightweight chance in the handicaps over a mile come Christmas time,” he sais.
Ritchie's other runner at Te Rapa is Shockallia in a Rating 65 1400m race. He is also fresh but has sometimes gone well in that state.
Meanwhile, Ritchie will also have an eye on Riccarton on Saturday, having sent his mare Nassak Diamond down for the NZB Airfreight Road to Jericho Rating 82 (3000m) following her third-place finish in another Jericho qualifier over 3210m at New Plymouth last month.
The race is a qualifying event for both the Group 3 Martin Collins New Zealand Cup (3200m) back at Riccarton on November 12 and for the Jericho Cup (4600m) at Warrnambool on November 27, both of which could be options for Nassak Diamond.
“This is basically a bit of a stepping stone for us to decide where to go with her. She'll definitely run the trip out but a few showers would probably aid her.”