Carl Henderson is full of excitement heading into the Listed Staphanos By Deep Impact Champagne Stakes (1600m) at Ellerslie on Saturday.
The Te Awamutu trainer will line-up Atullibigeal, who has been installed a +150 favourite by TAB bookmakers after his last start victory at Ellerslie.
The son of Street Boss led from pillar to post over the 1300m journey, reinforcing Henderson’s high opinion of the gelding.
He had two prior unplaced starts, including running seventh on debut in the Group 3 Waikato Stud Slipper (1200m) at Matamata in February.
“I do have a big rap on the horse,” Henderson said. “He got late scratched in his first start at Te Aroha, so he missed a run.
“We threw him in the deep end at Matamata against those couple of good ones. He went a good race, but he was just off the track the whole way.
“In his second start he drew 11 and was four and five-wide, and ran into third halfway down the straight and then compounded a little bit.
“I was pretty confident the other day. A little bit of wet ground certainly doesn’t worry him.”
Atullibigeal has drawn barrier seven in Saturday’s eight horse field, but the wide marble isn’t a concern for Henderson, having drawn a similar gate in his previous starts.
“It’s always good to draw in, but this will be his fourth start and he has drawn seven three times and 11 once,” Henderson said.
“He has never had a (good) draw yet. He has got tactical speed, so we can put him where we want him.
“It doesn’t worry me if he does lead. He gets into a rhythm rather than getting into trouble around other horses. He only has to worry about himself.”
The Champagne Stakes will be Atullibigeal’s first test over a mile, but Henderson said he expects his charge to handle it well, especially given his Derby aspirations with the gelding next season.
“I think he is possibly a Derby horse next year, so the mile shouldn’t worry him,” he said.
“There is always a concern with two-year-olds with the 1600m, but you don’t know unless you try.
“I don’t think he will find it a problem. There might be a bit of rain around, which will make it a more testing race, but you have got to be in to win.”
Atullibigeal will head to the spelling paddock after Saturday and Henderson said it would be nice to end his two-year-old season on a winning note.
“He will go to the paddock after this weekend,” he said. “It’s a nice race to finish off on – a stakes race. Traditionally it is not that strong and I don’t think it is that strong this weekend.”