Fast-improving Riccarton three-year-old Fireglow could be set for some rich targets at next season’s New Zealand Cup carnival.
Fireglow scored his second successive victory when taking out the Selwyn Rakaia Vet Services Three-Year-Old (1400m) at his home track on Saturday, getting up to beat Burgie and Palmetto for jockey Wiremu Pinn despite being blocked for a run at the top of the straight.
Michael Pitman, who trains Fireglow along with his son Matthew, hasn’t decided how much more racing he will do this season, but he would love to get the gelding to the starting gates for the Gr.2 Coupland’s Bakeries Mile (1600m) at Riccarton in November.
“We want to have him ready for the New Zealand Cup carnival, and where he goes depends on his rating,” Pitman said of Fireglow, who currently sports a 72 rating.
“There’s some very nice rating 74 events at the carnival, or if can get his rating up a little bit further we can raise our sights a bit higher towards the Coupland’s Mile.”
Pitman hasn’t shirked a challenge with Fireglow this season. After his maiden success in September he tackled mainly black type races in spring, including the Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m), and since then he has contested the Listed Dunedin Guineas (1500m), finishing fifth behind Palmetto.
He was then dropped back to Rating 65 company at Riccarton on March 10, which Pitman said had been extremely helpful.
“That was the first time he’d run in a rating race since he’d won his maiden. He got a fair bit of confidence out of that win, as horses do, and it showed on Saturday,” Pitman said.
“When Wiremu Pinn got off him on Saturday, he said ‘man, that horse has improved so much from his last race to this one’.”
Pitman said Fireglow will either have a short break and target two $30,000 races, a three-year-old race on the new Riccarton synthetic surface on June 3 and one for three- and four-year-olds at Ashburton on July 7.
“If he went really well we could always carry on until the Winter Cup as well,” he said.
The Pitman team’s highest-profile runner in the upcoming Riccarton autumn black-type races will be the three-year-old filly Reputabelle, an easy winner at her last start of the Listed New Zealand Bloodstock Airfreight Stakes (1400m) at Wingatui on March 5.
That victory took Reputabelle to equal-top ranking on the New Zealand Bloodstock Southern Filly of the Year table, and she will attempt to win that title in the final two legs of the series, the Listed New Zealand Bloodstock Insurance Stakes (1600m) on April 9 and the Listed New Zealand Bloodstock Warstep Stakes (2000m) on April 23.
“She was super impressive at Dunedin and she’s right on target for those races,” Pitman said.
Recent Trentham winner Okay Pal will probably target the open handicap over 1000m at Riccarton on April 9, while Rock Sensation will be given a little rest after his disappointing effort in the Johnny Fresh Darfield Yaldhurst Open Sprint (1400m) last Saturday and be aimed at the Listed Great Easter Stakes (1400m) on May 7.
The Pitmans haven’t finished outside the top five in the New Zealand trainers’ premiership over the last four seasons and are in line for a similar finish this year, currently lying fourth with 38 wins.
“We haven’t got the firepower of some of the leading stables, but we’re in a good position,” Pitman said. “The team’s been going well. We had a week where we won six races, and to then follow up with horses like Fireglow and Only Pal, it’s a good sign.”