New Zealand trainer Andrew Forsman has leading chances at stakes level on both sides of the Tasman on Saturday.
The Cambridge horseman will saddle a trio of runners at Caulfield in Mr Maestro, Aegon and Saint Bathans while at home the stable flag will be flown at Hastings by the Group 1 Livamol Classic (2040m) favourite Mustang Valley.
The Vanbrugh mare won on the first day of the Hawke's Bay carnival before claiming the Group 3 Metric Mile (1600m) at Awapuni and finished runner-up in the rescheduled Group 1 Arrowfield Stud Plate (1600m) at Matamata.
“She was very good last time on a better track and we have seen her go down to Hastings and perform when it was heavy,” Forsman said.
“It may not be a stellar line-up in the Livamol, but they (Group Ones) are never easy to win and she is only a four-year-old up against tough, seasoned older horses.
“She has had a hard month as well with a fair bit of travelling and she's got another long trip, but she seems to be coping well.”
Meanwhile, Forsman's decision to book Mr Maestro on an early flight to Melbourne has paid off in spades with the colt's impressive progress propelling him to the top of the Group 1 Victoria Derby (2500m) market.
With the support of his owners, Forsman sent the son of Savabeel across the Tasman at the beginning of August to give the three-year-old every opportunity to stamp his Classic credentials.
Mr Maestro has improved with each outing and was an impressive winner of his last two starts, including a most recent success in the Listed Super Impose Stakes (1800m), ahead of his final Derby outing in Saturday's Group 3 Caulfield Classic (2000m).
“He has really grown in confidence as he has developed physically and has struck a good patch of form,” Forsman said.
“The key was that there were the good lead-up options here (Melbourne) to get some racing into him and that has really helped. He was able to get up to 1800m after a couple of lead-up runs, which was ideal.”
Mr Maestro, who hadn't raced since April when he headed offshore, is a +300 favourite for the Victoria Derby and currently at -142.86 for Saturday's challenge.
“Obviously, he has won a couple of races at Flemington and one was on a good track and the other on a heavy track,” Forsman said.
“The only little concern is that it is his last run before the Derby and it will be a testing track, but a small field helps and I don't think there will be a heap of tempo and I wouldn't imagine it will be a hard-run race.”
Regular partner Damian Lane will be at Randwick to partner Jacquinot in The Everest (1200m) and his seat on Mr Maestro will be kept warm by Harry Coffey.
“Harry is a very capable rider and he is happy to get off for Damian when the Derby comes around,” Forsman said.
Blake Shinn has been booked for Aegon in the Group 3 Moonga Stakes (1400m) and a resuming sixth at Te Rapa last month convinced part-owner Forsman to send the Sacred Falls five-year-old to Melbourne.
“I was really happy with his first-up run and he came through it really well. There's a lack of suitable options at home and we feel like he is somewhere near his best form,” he said.
“He travelled well and it's a suitable race, he doesn't have to carry a big weight and give away so much weight as he does in handicaps.”
Saint Bathans also looks well-placed in the Lamaro's Grand Hotel Handicap (1700m) and he will be ridden by Dean Holland, who guided the son of Maurice into a last-start fourth in the Listed Seymour Cup (1600m).
“He was very good in a slowly-run race and came from near last on the turn to only be beaten a length when out of his grade,” Forsman said.
“He's still a bit raw and figuring things out, but I'm happy with him. I'd be pretty disappointed if he wasn't in the top three.”
Forsman's Australian team, which also includes high-class three-year-old She's Licketysplit, will be further bolstered next week by the arrival of White Noise, who dead-heated for second last time out in the Listed Matamata Cup (1600m).
“He will fly over next Wednesday and the first option for him is the Sale Cup (1600m) on the Sunday,” Forsman said.
“It is back to 1400m and that is a slight concern. If he gets in the field at Sale then we'll see how he performs and that will dictate whether we keep him fresh for the 1400m, stay at a mile or step him up further. He's pretty adaptable,” Forsman said.