Seasoned performers and travellers Sagunto and Langkawi will front up at Trentham this Saturday and top performances will book them return trips a week later for the opening day of the Wellington Cup carnival.
They are likely to be joined there on January 14 by Purrfect Puss, who has the Group 2 Life Direct Wellington Guineas (1400m) on her programme.
All three are previous winners on the course for Peter and Shaun McKay and Sagunto and Langkawi will give the Matamata trainers a strong hand in Saturday's Listed JAPAC Marton Cup (2200m).
Sagunto will be looking to add to his collection of silverware at Trentham after claiming the Gr.3 Manawatu Cup (2300m) there on heavy going at his latest outing, courtesy of a fine frontrunning ride from Lisa Allpress.
“He surprised me that he managed to get through the ground, it's been his problem before so I said to Lisa to keep him rolling,” Peter McKay said.
“He's the sort of horse that doesn't quicken a lot, but he doesn't stop and on an average track he has to keep his momentum up and Lisa kept increasing the speed.”
Safely through this weekend, Sagunto will back up seven days later in the Grade 3 Mode Technology Trentham Stakes (2100m).
“He's going to have a busy month as it's worked out. He will run in that staying race and if he's still going all right he will go to Pukekohe the following week for the Karaka Cup (2200m),” McKay said.
“He is a very hard horse to ride in his work so it's better to have his races close together. It's been three weeks between his runs and I was having a problem holding him this morning, he's a very strong puller.”
McKay's son Shaun will take the reins on Saturday and they have proved a hard combination to crack in the past.
“I would have liked to put Lisa on again, but Shaun has won six on him,” he said.
“I don't like taking a winning jockey off, but Lisa sent me a text yesterday to say she had taken another ride anyway because I hadn't said where he was going so it so it's worked out alright.”
Barnmate Langkawi hinted at a return to his best form when a last-start fourth in the Taupo Cup (2000m), in which little went the way of the son of Helmet and jockey Jake Bayliss, who retains the mount.
“Jake said he tried to ride for a bit of luck and they started fanning out and he thought he'd come through on the inside, but he got held up at a crucial stage and the leader came back on him,” McKay said.
“He got carted back through the field so it was a good effort to finish where he did.
“He can pull a bit as well so that's why we're backing him up again. That generally suits him better and if he runs in the first three or four he'll go back down for the Trentham Stakes as well.
“He definitely won't go on to Karaka Million night though, he doesn't like racing that way around (clockwise).”
Purrfect Puss won an age group event over 1200m at Trentham two runs back before the daughter of Sacred Falls was a luckless fifth against the older horses at Te Rapa.
“She'll hopefully go down for the Guineas and got flushed back to last the other day and then came through, but the track was a tad on the firm side and she wouldn't really let down,” McKay said.
“She has come through it well and the big track at Wellington over 1400m will hopefully suit her.”.