After a dazzling performance in winning Saturday's Group 1 BCD Group Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa, connections of star four-year-old Imperatriz have decided to raise the bar.
The Mark Walker-trained mare will now contest the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington on March 11, aiming to emulate compatriot Roch ‘N' Horse, who won the time-honoured sprint last year.
“We think she is in career best form and we had been thinking prior to Saturday of going to Brisbane, but we think she deserves a chance of going to an elite race while we have got her in such great form,” Walker said of the four-time Group One winner.
“Even if she runs third, that on the page would add significant value to her.
“She has pulled up well and has gone to the water treadmill for the rest of the week and then we will get her back and concentrate on having her as well as we can for the 11th of March.”
While Kiwi sprinters Roch ‘N' Horse and Levante have proved more than up to the mark, finishing first and fourth respectively in both the Newmarket and the Group 1 Champions Sprint (1200m), also at Flemington, Walker said their performances have nothing to do with the selection of the straight six dash.
“We just thought she has got such a high cruising speed and that race might suit her.”
With nominations for the Newmarket now just a week prior to the race, Walker said much will depend on other entries as to what weight the mare will carry.
“Obviously if Nature Strip is nominated it becomes a whole different race. It depends on what horse could end up top-weight, but we think she is in red-hot form and she deserves her chance at a race like that,” Walker said.
Three-year-old stablemate Maven Belle finished fourth to Imperatriz, albeit nearly seven lengths away and will return to Te Rapa in three weeks for the Listed Mufhasa Stakes (1400m).
“She was really good and will go to the Mufhasa. She is in the mix for the Levin Classic (Group 1, 1600m) at Trentham on March 18,” Walker said.
Walker has Group One plans for both Campionessa and Wild Night, who finished second and third respectively behind classy galloper Sharp ‘N' Smart in Saturday's Group 1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m).
“She has just grown another leg this season, it has been quite incredible her transformation. That trip to the South Island, she has just grown another leg after being down there.”
Derby aspirations have been shelved for Wild Night, who will revert to 1600m in the Group 1 WFA Classic at Otaki on February 25. The son of Vanbrugh was comfortably held by Sharp ‘N' Smart and then suffered the ignominy of being kicked on the way back to scale.
“I thought Michael (McNab) gave Wild Night a peach of a ride and he wasn't quite as strong at the end of the race as we would have hoped for. I feel that he is a miler,” Walker said.
“He has got a few staples (from the kick), but it hasn't worried him at all.”
Like many, Walker will be on weather watch looking ahead to Saturday's Group 2 Avondale Cup (2400m) at Pukekohe where he will be represented by Soprano Supreme and Self Obsession, while Dynastic will press his Derby claims in the Group 2 Avondale Guineas (2100m).