Robbie Patterson is loving it so much in Queensland he might not come home.
The New Zealand horseman has enjoyed trading the cold winter under Mount Taranaki for the warmer climes of Brisbane over the last few weeks, but on Saturday things will start to heat up for his Australian raiders Coventina Bay and Puntura.
Both runners will contest their first raceday assignments of their Queensland campaign at Eagle Farm on Saturday and Patterson is particularly excited about the prospects of Coventina Bay in the Group 2 Dane Ripper Stakes (1300m).
The daughter of Shamexpress heads into the race in good form, having won three of her last six starts, including the Group 3 Cuddle Stakes (1600m) and Group 3 J Swap Sprint (1400m), while she placed in her three other outings, including the Group 1 New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1600m) at Te Rapa last start.
She subsequently won her first-up trial over 1200m at the Sunshine Coast last week, pleasing Patterson, who has been based at Barry Baldwin’s Eagle Farm stable.
“She trialled up really well and there were a few strong horses in that, so we were rapt with it. She has come through it great,” he said.
“She had another gallop on Saturday and had her final gallop today (Wednesday) and Sam (Collett, jockey) was ecstatic. We couldn’t be happier with her.”
New Zealand jockey Samantha Collett has been based in Queensland over the last few weeks riding Patterson’s team in work, and the Taranaki trainer has appreciated having her expertise on a daily basis, something he misses in New Zealand with the pair living three hours apart.
“She gets on so well with both of them,” Patterson said. “She knows both of them so well. It’s invaluable having a jockey like Sam riding track work for you.”
Looking ahead to Saturday, Patterson is expecting big things from his mare and doesn’t believe Eagle Farm’s firm track holds any concerns for her.
“I think you will see something special from her on Saturday the way she has been working,” he said. “But whether 1300m is a fraction short for her with her racing style we will see.
“They tend to get out to the middle of the track here and fly home, so it could work into her favour if they go hard early.
“The track is not as firm as these Aussies are making it out to be. It just doesn’t carry a lot of grass on it, just the way they have redone the track.
“They all did their exhibition gallops yesterday on it and we stayed off it and kept to the dirt track. I think if you keep pounding around on it you might jar them up, but I think it is a nice even surface. It doesn’t hold any concerns for me, we have got real fresh legs.”
All going well, Coventina Bay will return to Eagle Farm in a fortnight to tackle the Group 1 Tattersall’s Tiara (1400m).
“Hopefully some of the better mares aren’t here come Tatts Tiara time. It might not be the strongest Group One, but it definitely won’t be easy,” Patterson said.
“I think she is a genuine Group One horse.”
Meanwhile, Puntura will head into the Group 3 Gunsynd Classic (1600m) on Saturday in a similar vein of form, having won his 1200m trial at the Sunshine Coast after posting four successive wins in New Zealand.
“He trialled up really well. There were only three in it, but the horse who ran second won at Canterbury Park last start, so he is no slug,” Patterson said.
“He has come through it well. He has put on the best part of 30 kilos since he has been here. He hasn’t got away on me, he has just blossomed.
“He has worked up really well. Sam has done a bit of fine-tuning on his back, she has got him really settled now.
“Ayrton is in the race, he is the boom horse, but if we are running second to him I would be rapt.
“The way this horse is going, and the way he finds a mile, he won’t disgrace himself.”
A trip to Caloundra is on the cards following Saturday where Puntura is set to contest the Group 2 Winx Guineas (1600m).
Back at home, Patterson will have five runners at New Plymouth on Thursday and he highlighted debutant The Dutch Dame and last start runner-up Swiss Kitty as his stable’s best chances.
“I really like a horse called The Dutch Dame. She won a trial with Sam on her at Te Rapa. I don’t know how wet the track is going to be tomorrow, but I really rate her as a horse with a future,” he said.
“Swiss Kitty ran second first-up to quite a smart horse. He’s a Swiss Ace and he will appreciate the wet track.”