Cambridge trainer Stephen Marsh is preparing for an attack on a Group One double on both sides of the Tasman this weekend.
Marsh is hoping Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) runner-up Andalus can go one better in the Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) at Randwick, while at home he hopes to start exciting juvenile Sako in the Group 1 Manawatu Sires' Produce Stakes (1400m) at Awapuni.
Facing the starter for the third time after finishing second on debut and then fifth in heavy ground in the Group 3 Matamata Slipper (1200m), Sako produced a solid staying effort for jockey Wiremu Pinn to overpower No Rain Ever and Tower Flypass at Trentham earlier this month, despite not being entirely happy on the Soft 7 track.
“Wellington wasn't too bad, but Wiremu said he only just got away with that,” Marsh said.
“The better the track is, the better he will go.”
A homebred for John and Mark Carter's Jomara Bloodstock, Sako is by promising young sire Ardrossan out of the Group One-placed mare Miss Maren, a half-sister to Group 1 New Zealand Stakes (2000m) winner Deebee Belle.
“He's definitely not just an out-of-the-gate two-year-old type. He's got plenty of scope to train right on and be a better three-year-old,” said Marsh, who trained his Group One performed sire through the majority of his career.
Andalus has been progressing well since defeating all but Sharp ‘N' Smart in the New Zealand Derby at Te Rapa and is preparing to head across the Tasman on Monday, where he will be based with Anthony Cummings at Randwick.
“He's had a little bit of a quiet time since the New Zealand Derby but his gallops have been pleasing and he is doing very well,” Marsh said of the son of Almanzor.
“He'll go into the Australian Derby in great order and will spell after that, after which we'll decide what path he will take as a four-year-old after that.
“He should make a nice stayer. His run at Te Rapa was terrific but he's only going to get better as he gets older.”
Marsh had considered taking one of his other New Zealand Derby runners, Listed Gingernuts Salver (2100m) winner Cruz Missile, south for the Group 3 Manawatu Classic (2000m), but he's instead decided to put him aside until next season.
Marsh believed Cruz Missile may not have enjoyed Te Rapa, where he failed twice after his Gingernuts Salver victory, but decided against giving him a chance for redemption at Awapuni.
“He looks in great order, but he may have been a bit immature and not quite ready to take the next step in the Derby,” he said.
“I think he's growing and that time is going to help him.”
Instead, Sako is likely to be joined at Awapuni by Encierro in the Group 2 City of Palmerston North Awapuni Gold Cup (2000m) and by sprinters Oseleta and El Vencedor in the Listed Flying Handicap (1400m).