Cambridge trainer Stephen Marsh has black-type runners at three venues on Saturday, headed by Milford in the A$2 million Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) at Randwick.
The Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) runner-up finished a well-held eighth in the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) when making his Australian debut a fortnight ago, racing ungenerously around the bends of the horse shoe-shaped Sydney track and has subsequently been installed a +6000 chance in the Derby.
“He was disappointing,” Marsh said. “He just did so much wrong. We have taken the shadow roll off and have done a few new little things with him since.
“I think the key is getting him on the big track at Randwick and we are going to ride him a little bit colder with Damien Oliver in the saddle.
“I think he can turn his form around but he does need to do things a lot better in the run.
“We need to just help him around those bends. In his work, he has been galloping on the course proper at Warwick Farm and the bigger track has helped him.
“I just don’t think he appreciated the tighter track of Rosehill and it is a beautiful track at Randwick and you know he will get every chance.
“The target has always been the Australian Derby, it was never so much the Rosehill Guineas for him and he did need the run as well.”
Marsh will be overseeing his 10 runners at Te Aroha on Saturday, where progressive mare Tabata will have a throw at the stumps in the Group 1 Fiber Fresh New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1600m), taking on class mares including Avantage, Levante and Coventina Bay.
Tabata is raced by former cricket star Brendon McCullum, an avid racing fan who is keen to build the profile of his Savabeel mare before she eventually joins his small broodmare band.
“It’s her last run for the season, she bounced out of her last race very well,” Marsh said.
“It’s a nine-horse field but the top five are ultra-good. Who knows, if she runs the race of her life and runs top four, it adds to her value. But we realise we’re having a big throw at the stumps and it’s a big ask but we’re more than happy to do it, we’ve got the right draw (5) and right jockey (Michael McNab). She’s going to run some sort of race.
“We won’t dig her out and we won’t pull her back, we’ll just ride her where she’s happy and give her a bit of room to move in the straight. There are a few that get back so it will be a very interesting race.
“If this was at the start of her preparation, or part way through, we probably wouldn’t have looked at it but it falls at a good time and she’ll be having a decent spell afterwards and next season she will come back an even better mare.”
The Cambridge horseman will also have a host of runners at Riccarton from his southern barn, with in-form mare Belle Fascino, the winner of four of her past five starts, aiming to keep the juggernaut rolling in the Listed Christchurch Casino Easter Cup (1600m) in what looks an even handicap contest.
A last start winner of the Group 3 South Island Breeders’ Stakes (1600m) over the same course and distance, Belle Fascino (+600) will again clash with stablemate Bronte Beach (+900) who closed off nicely for third last start and will be suited back to handicap conditions.
“I thought Belle Fascino might end up carrying 60kgs but with Gallant Boy and Camino Rocoso accepting there are a couple above her, so she gets in well again with 56.5kgs. She has drawn the outside (14) but she is in phenomenal form,” Marsh said.
“Bronte Beach gets in nicely with 53kgs and has drawn the inside gate. She will go a really good race. They are two in-form mares that keep padding up. They will be right there again.
“Bronte Beach needs a good track and Belle Fascino is not too fussy on the ground.”
Earlier on the card, the Marsh-trained Atishu has already been supported into a +150 favourite in the Listed New Zealand Bloodstock Airfreight Stakes (1600m) on the strength of her stunning last-start win.
“Atishu was terrific last start. She nearly fell at the start, she got back to last and she broke 32 seconds for the last 600m,” Marsh said.
“She is a good filly and has drawn wide (13) but she does get the whole mile there at Riccarton where there is a lovely run down the back straight.”
Stablemate Fettercairn (+2200) will have a task to turn the tables on Atishu but Marsh believes there were excuses for the filly’s last-start ninth.
“We probably made a little bit of a mistake last start by riding her a bit upside down. She will be ridden off the speed this time and she can turn her form around and hit the line but it is hard to go past Atishu,” Marsh said.