Johno Benner and Hollie Wynyard pride themselves on their strike rate and they are enjoying another successful season on that score.
The Otaki trainers’ focus is very much on quality over quantity and they are sitting on 19 winners from 91 starters for the current term and looking to a trio of black-type representatives at Awapuni on Saturday to improve their standing.
Quality filly Tulsi runs in the Group 1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m), Pride Of Aspen tackles the Group 2 City of Palmerston North Awapuni Gold Cup (2000m) and Hold The Press steps out in the Listed Flying Handicap (1400m).
“We operate on strike rate and never have any more than 20 horses in work. At the moment we’ve got 15 or 16 and are starting to quieten down now for the winter months,” Benner said.
“We’ve sold a few horses this year as well, we’ve traded four already and obviously training in New Zealand that’s what you have to do.
“It’s either the cheque book or the scrap book to a point.”
Tulsi is undoubtedly one of the brighter young prospects in the team and was a debut winner at Tauherenikau before handling a sharp rise in class with aplomb when third in the Group 1 Sistema Stakes (1200m) at Pukekohe.
“She’s spot on and this has been our target race from the beginning, we’re pretty happy with her,” Benner said.
“It was a good run the other day and realistically, we were probably never going to beat the winner (Tokyo Tycoon).”
Tulsi’s cause wasn’t helped when she was awkwardly away from the outside alley.
“She tripped when the barriers opened and got back a bit. It was a tricky gate anyway and she was really strong the last 50m and very encouraging signs going toward 1400m on Saturday,” Benner said.
Michael McNab has ridden Tulsi in both starts to date, but is currently suspended and in-form Group One jockey Ryan Elliot will take the reins.
“She’s a straight-forward filly and she’s dead-set going to be a top three-year-old, that’s when we will really see her excel and anything she’s doing now is a bonus,” Benner said.
“We may look at the Champagne Stakes (Listed, 1600m) at Pukekohe, but we’ll get through Saturday first, that’s our focus for now.
“She is a beautifully laid-back filly with an amazing pedigree and it’s all upwards for her.”
Raced by prominent owner Gary Harding, the daughter of The Autumn Sun was a $550,000 yearling purchase and is out of a half-sister to the Group 1 Golden Slipper (1200m) winner Kiamichi.
Pride Of Aspen won for the fourth time in her 12-start career when successful last time out over 1600m at Otaki and is expected to relish the step up to 2000m on Saturday.
“I feel she is going to be really potent at 10 furlongs and she was good the other day,” Benner said.
“She is a lovely, tough mare and may go to the Manawatu Breeders’ Stakes (Group 3, 2000m) in two weeks’ time and that will be enough for her.”
Hold The Press is a six-time winner, including the Listed Levin Stakes (1200m), and was sixth most recently when resuming in the Listed Lightning Handicap (1200m).
“She was also good last time out and that will bring her on and she’s ready to go a big race,” Benner said.
“She’s been a little marvel for the stable and we’ll look to get more black type for her along the way.”
The stable has a number of promising second season performers and among them is Pitkin County, who broke her maiden at Tauherenikau on Sunday at her third appearance.
“She has taken a bit of time and I loved the way she flattened out. With all due respect, she didn’t beat a lot and there’s no point beating around the bush, but she’s got a bit of quality about her,” Benner said.
“She’s a beautifully bred filly and might have one more run before she goes to the paddock for the winter.”
By Lonhro, she was a $180,000 yearling buy for Aspen Bloodstock and is from the immediate family of the multiple Group One winner and sire Trapeze Artist.
“Horses like her and Colorado Silver, O’Riordan and Flamenco are all three-year-old fillies that have just missed black type this season because they’ve needed time,” Benner said.
“They are going to get better and should be lovely mares as four and five-year-olds.”