The regally bred Luella Cristina's three-year-old season is drawing to a close and a stakes win will provide the perfect ending to what has already been a successful campaign.
The blueblood is trained by Stephen Marsh, who has his forces spread far and wide with black type contenders at the Hawke's Bay meeting and a team engaged closer to home at Te Rapa.
Raced by breeder Lib Petagna, Luella Cristina was unbeaten in her first two starts before running fifth from the outside gate in the Listed Mufhasa Stakes (1400m) and a gallant third in the Group 1 Levin Classic (1600m).
“She has been really, really good and won a couple, she's Group One-placed now and it would be nice to cap her season off with a stakes win,” Marsh said.
“She could potentially back up a week later (in the Listed NZB Warstep Stakes, 2000m) if we feel that is the right thing to do.”
Luella Cristina has required time to furnish and the benefit of patient handling has brought its rewards.
“She was a little bit small and weak through her first two preparations and took a while to mature,” Marsh said.
“She has been in and out of the stable a lot, but she is very tough and has got better and better each time.”
Marsh prepared her dam Lucia Valentina in the early stages of her career and won the Group 3 Wellington Stakes (1600m) with Savabeel's daughter before she joined Kris Lees' stable.
Promising Dundeel filly Doddle will oppose her stablemate and is rated a decent chance to gain a slice of early black type.
She was a debut third at Taupo before breaking her maiden at Pukekohe and last time out finished well for second at Riccarton and the step up to a mile is expected to suit her better.
Meanwhile, Savabeel four-year-old Divine Sava has been successful in two of her last three starts to earn a crack at the Listed Easter Cup (1600m).
“She's on the minimum and drawn barrier one. She has grown another leg down there and didn't have all favours last start and her two wins before that were really good so she's a definite lightweight chance,” Marsh said.
At Hastings, he will be represented by feature race contenders Lincoln King and Margaret Jean in the Listed Hawke's Bay Cup (2200m) and La Bella Beals and Miss Cartier in the Listed Power Turf Sprint (1200m).
“Lincoln King is a proven stakes performer and with the right run he will go well and Margaret Jean has won at Hastings before so she's some chance as well,” he said.
“La Bella Beals is fitter for a few runs and drawn beautifully in barrier one so she'll get a grouse run and with that draw she's probably ahead of Miss Cartier.
“She has a sticky gate and is fresh-up and usually takes a run or two, but she is as forward as we have had her.”
Among a number of Te Rapa hopefuls is the Written Tycoon juvenile Glamour Tycoon, who will debut in the Website Angels 2YO (1100m).
“She's a lovely filly and we're not sure what really happened in her first trial,” Marsh said.
“She basically pulled up and didn't get into a gallop and cantered past the post. Her next two trials were terrific and she ran a very good second coming from the back and then led and won in a very good time.
“We've had to wait for her and it's a very good field, but she is a chance and we'd like to use this as a springboard to the Waikato Equine Veterinary Centre Stakes (Listed, 1200m) and then head to the paddock.”
“Tightlign gets the full 4kg off and back up to 1400m really suits him and Winning For All was three wide without cover last start and won. He's got a good draw again and should also be hard to beat,” Marsh said.