Saturday to decide Cork’s spring targets

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Promising Matamata mare Cork may be aimed at some spring targets if she can run well in Saturday's ITM Interprovincial Championship (1600m) at New Plymouth.

The five-year-old has won three of her nine starts and earned her first black type when finishing second to Helena Baby in the Listed Opunake Cup (1400m) at New Plymouth last month.

The horses behind her included Justaskme and Darci La Bella, and the form was made to look more impressive when Helena Baby won again at Tauranga last Saturday.

If all goes well, the Hastings carnival is a possibility, with Cork nominated for the Arrowfield Stud Plate (1600m) on October 1 and the Group 1 Livamol Classic (2040m) on October 15.

Pam Gerard, who trains Cork with , said the Interprovincial looked a good race for her.

“I'm very happy with her. Her work's been right up to where we'd like to see it with her,” she said.

“We had thought maybe we could whiz her over to Australia, but the Interprovincial has nice and it could lead us nicely into one of those races at Hawke's Bay.

“She certainly likes cut in the ground, so the will determine whether she targets those races.”

Though she has won at 1400m this year, Gerard said she really needed at least 1600m to show her best.

“If we can keep her slightly on the fresh side she should be competitive over the mile – 1400m is short of what she wants,” she said.

“We haven't even got to 2000m yet this year, and she'll be sensational at that.”

If she doesn't make it to Hastings, the Listed (1600m) at Awapuni on September 24 could be another option.

Also nominated for the Hawke's Bay features is , who last year ran second in the Livamol behind Savy Yong Blonk, and Gerard said he has come back in tremendous style.

“He's had a really long break and we've completely changed his training up – he's done a lot of work down at the farm and the roads and mixed things up for him, and he's come back all the better,” she said.

“He had a jumpout at Cambridge a week ago and we were really pleased with him. He'll trial at Taupo later this month.

“Last year when he competed at Hastings he was at the end of a prep rather than the beginning and this time we hope the timing is right.”

Most of Gerard's other top horses, such as Sassy Merlot, , and are back in training but probably won't be ready for significant targets until late spring at the earliest.

“They will all want the tracks to be a bit better, and once they improve we will look for some opportunities for black type for them,” Gerard said.

“Dragon Queen, in particular, doesn't seem to show her best until after Christmas.”

Gerard also confirmed that veteran On The Rocks would be back again this season. Winner of the Gr.1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) and the Gr.2 Rich Hill Mile (1600m) in 2019, On The Rocks has been hard to place in recent seasons but was able to register a win at Rotorua in April.

“Weight has been his biggest enemy throughout the last few years, and though on paper the results haven't been the best, we are hoping he can get down a little more in the weights,” Gerard said.

“He's quite a small horse so even at level weights in weight-for-age contests he finds the weights tough to carry.

“We're really looking for an open handicap with a horse high up in the ratings that pushes the weights down, like happened at Rotorua when Big Mike was nominated. But he showed at Rotorua that he still wants to be there, so we're giving him another go.”

Though Cork will be the only stable runner at New Plymouth on Saturday, Gerard will have two runners at Ruakaka the same day: Girl in a Rating 65 1600m race and Candyflip in a 1600m maiden.

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