Mark Walker might yet turn his back on a AUD$1 million bonus with his superstar mare Imperatriz in favour of an even more lucrative Australian prize.
The Matamata trainer was in awe of his star mare’s 5.75 length win in last Saturday’s Group 2 Foxbridge Plate (1200m) at Te Rapa and reported that she had come through the race with flying colours.
Walker confirmed Imperatriz would next tackle the Group 1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) at Hastings on Saturday-week before going on to the Group 1 Arrowfield Stud Stakes (1600m) at the same track on October 1.
It was thought Imperatriz would then head to the Group 1 Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) for fillies and mares at Flemington on October 31, for which connections would receive a AUD$1 million bonus if she were to win, having won last season’s Group 1 New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1600m) to become eligible for the bonus.
But Walker has left the door open to bypass the Empire Rose Stakes in favour of the AUD$10 million The Golden Eagle (1500m) at Rosehill the same day.
“She’ll run the first two legs at Hastings and then we’ll either look at the Empire Rose Stakes or we’re keeping an open mind towards the Golden Eagle,” Walker said.
“It will be one or the other. They are both the same day but we’ll just check the weather in Sydney and Melbourne.
“She was really good last week and we’re really happy with her through the race too. She’s a good mare, that’s for sure.”
Before that Walker will chase stakes features at Wanganui on Saturday and build towards spring features with a strong contingent at Te Rapa on Sunday.
Walker has El Roca three-year-old filly Romancing The Moon in the Listed O’Learys Fillies Stakes (1200m) at Wanganui at just her second start after an encouraging debut at Taupo last week.
Last-start Hawera winner Accidental Tourist will contest the Listed HS Dyke Wanganui Guineas (1360m).
“If it did happen to rain and the track became really testing, that would really suit them both,” Walker said.
“A really wet testing track would bring them right into it. They are both well suited to the races on Saturday.”
Walker will also step out Snitzel filly Rhetorical and Rubick filly Rubicon Crossing in the first two-year-old race of the season, the Dave Hoskin Carriers 800.
“They’ve had a couple of jumpouts, just against the older horses at Matamata. They haven’t been to the trials but that doesn’t worry me,” Walker said.
“They are both precocious fillies. That race often comes down to luck. If you have any bad luck in running, it’s game over. A lot will be about who gets the right run.”
At Te Rapa, Walker has seven runners engaged, with Group One winners On The Bubbles, Amarelinha and Belle En Rouge clashing in the RMS Contracting 1200.
“Amarelinha and Belle En Rouge will both improve with the run and are looking for more distance but this is a nice kick-off point,” Walker said.
“On The Bubbles disappointed at Ruakaka but horses can do that. We trialled him at Avondale but it was hard to get a line on him. The track was awful that day but if he was to get reasonable ground he might bounce back quickly.”
Walker will target the Listed Team Wealleans Matamata Cup (1600m) on October 8 with Amarelinha and Belle En Rouge and depending on how they run, they could back up in the Group 1 Livamol Classic (2040m) at Hastings a week later.
“I’m not more sure On The Bubbles is a weight-for-age horse yet. We’ll just maybe look more at the 1400m Group Three handicap (Red Badge Spring Sprint) on the last day at Hastings.”
Markus Aurelius, Perfect Scenario and Aromatic will tackle the Wade Equine Coaches 1500.
“Markus Aurelius was good first-up but it might not be wet enough for Aromatic the way the forecast looks,” he said.
“Perfect Scenario goes from a midweek at Taupo to what really is Saturday company so he’s got to lift again and whether he can or not, we’ll find out.”
Walker’s other runner is Devoted in the Maramarua Hunt Maiden Hurdle (2800m).
“He’s probably more of a steeplechasing horse but he did go better last start. He doesn’t really do bad ground so that might just be the concern with him,” he said.