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It’s taken patience and hard work, but Ben Foote believes he’s got Travelling Light back to her best.
The four-year-old mare will be among the leading fancies for the Group 2 Travis Stakes (2000m) at Te Rapa on Saturday after pushing Avantage to a neck in the Group 1 New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1600m) on April 17.
Travelling Light was one of the best three-year-old fillies of last season, winning five of her seven starts, including the Group 1 Levin Classic (1600m).
But she ran well below her best when she resumed this season in the Group 2 Foxbridge Plate (1200m) in early September, and didn’t run again until Karaka Million day in January.
Foote said the biggest challenge had been getting Travelling Light mentally focused again after a big three-year-old campaign which involved trips to Riccarton and Trentham.
“She was a bit sore after her last race as a three-year-old in the Waikato Guineas (Group 2, 2100m) and it took her a long time to get over that. Fillies and mares can do that – when they’re not on, they’re not on,” Foote said.
“I was more concentrating on getting her in the right frame of mind, to how she used to be. The more she raced, the better she came through them, and the better her work was.”
The daughter of El Roca resumed with a sixth placing in the Group 3 Westbury Classic (1400m), and followed that by finishing fourth in the Group 1 BCD Sprint (1400m), third in the Group 1 Otaki Weight-For-Age Classic (1600m), and fourth in the Group 2 Japan Trophy (1600m) prior to her Breeders’ Stakes effort.
“You can tell when she’s focused, and her last couple of runs she’s showed me that she’s really switched on,” Foote said.
“With a bit of a different ride she might have won the Japan Trophy at Tauranga as well – she was only a neck back that day as well.”
Travelling Light finished second in her only run past 1600m last season, albeit 7.5 lengths behind Two Illicit in the Waikato Guineas, but she was at the end of her campaign and Foote expects the distance will not be a factor in the Travis Stakes.
It is likely to be her final start for the season, although Foote has left the door ajar to press on to Queensland for the Group 1 Tattersall’s Tiara (1400m) for fillies and mares at Eagle Farm on June 26, should Travelling Light win impressively.
Foote could be in for a very good day at Te Rapa as he also lines up the quality filly Babylon Berlin in the day’s other feature, the Group 3 Inglis Sales Cambridge Breeders’ Stakes (1200m).
A daughter of All Too Hard, Babylon Berlin has a strong record at 1200m, having won two of her six starts over the distance and placed on the other four occasions.
The speedy filly was also a last start course and distance winner on a Slow surface, with the Te Rapa track rated a Slow8 on Tuesday.
“I think she’s a very, very good horse, she’s just got to learn to run out her races a little bit better. She’s a definite Group One horse,” Foote said.
The Cambridge trainer said Babylon Berlin would spell following the Cambridge Breeders’ Stakes and would likely be set for the Group 1 Railway (1200m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day next season.