Ben Foote is keen to stick to the plan with his top filly Travelling Light and resist the temptation of another Group 1 mission this weekend. Foote and Travelling Light’s part-owner and co-breeder Col MacRury threw the Group 1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) at Te Rapa into the mix for the El Roca filly along with the Group 2 Legacy Lodge Waikato Guineas (2000m) and the Group 2 David and Karyn Ellis Fillies Classic (2000m).
But Foote believes the Waikato Guineas against the colts and geldings is the best option on Saturday. “We did talk about the weight-for-age (Herbie Dyke Stakes) for her, but I thought about it and believe the Waikato Guineas is the best way to go,” Foote said. “She could end up running third or fourth in the Herbie Dyke against the older horses and we’d be left wondering if the first couple were just too good or she didn’t stay. “I know they (three-year-olds) haven’t got a bad record in it and it’s a Group 1 and worth $400,000, but the New Zealand Derby (Group 1, 2400m) is worth more and it’s the main goal. She’s definitely going for the Derby over the New Zealand Oaks (Group 1, 2400m) against the fillies.”
A last-start winner of the Group 1 Levin Classic (1600m), Travelling Light will clash in the Waikato Guineas with Dragon Leap, a highly rated winner of two of his three starts and fresh from his victory in the Group 2 Auckland Guineas (1600m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day. “We’ll see where she is up against Dragon Leap going into the Derby,” Foote said.
Travelling Light has been beaten just once in her six starts. That defeat came in her first attempt at 1600m in the Group 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas at Riccarton in November, but she mastered the mile in impressive fashion last start at Trentham. “The 1000 Guineas was a disaster, a mistake, but I’m confident she will get more ground,” Foote said. “She cruises in all her work and she’s got a huge turn of foot for a couple of hundred metres. Everything comes off the bit before she does. “If she draws wide we’ll go back with her and Sam knows how to ride her.”
Travelling Light led in the 1000 Guineas, but was ridden off the pace in the Levin Classic, which she won decisively from the smart male three-year-olds Harlech and Riodini. She furthered her preparation for Saturday’s meeting with an exhibition gallop between races at Matamata on Sunday. Ridden by usual rider Sam Collett, she worked with Two Illicit (also a possible candidate for the Waikato Guineas) and tracked her throughout. “Sam said she did it easily,” Foote said. “She started pulling up at the winning post and that’s her down to a tee. I didn’t want her running through the line in the gallop.”
The New Zealand Derby at Ellerslie is three weeks after the Waikato Guineas and will give Foote an opportunity to win his second Group 1. “I’m sure she will come through the (Waikato) Guineas well,” Foote said. “She thrives on a bit of pressure and eats up well. “If she doesn’t stay on Saturday we’ll back off and probably look at Sydney.”