A trio of Southland runners will be on trial for looming Cups targets when they head to Ashburton on Thursday.
The Gr.3 Winter Cup (1600m) is firmly in the crosshairs for six-win mare Fiery Red, and she will look to clinch her spot in next month’s Riccarton feature with a positive showing in the Winning Edge Presentation Winter Cup Trial (1400m).
The daughter of Iffraaj has been in great form of late, winning one and placing in two of her last three starts, including a third placing behind Zelenski and Athene in the Waimate Cup (1600m) last month.
Trainer Sophie Price was pleased with her run but shared concerns over travel, with the five-year-old mare taking a while to get over her last trip north from their Winton base.
“I was really pleased with her run in the Waimate Cup. She is pretty tough and to be fair, the track was pretty firm. She is not a real firm tracker,” Price said.
“She is not the best of travellers. She ate well at Timaru, but she didn’t eat anything for a couple of days when she came home.
“Ashburton is the furthest she has been so hopefully she does everything right.
“She has got a nice, light weight (54.5kg), and not too bad of a draw (7), so she is definitely in with a chance.”
Price said Thursday will be a good litmus test to see whether Fiery Red could handle a trip to Riccarton next month for the Winter Cup.
“We are just taking it race-by-race with her at the moment,” she said.
“If she runs a good race and travels well, we will look toward the Winter Cup, but if she doesn’t, she will possibly go elsewhere.”
Fiery Red will be joined in Thursday’s contest by stablemate Silent Battler, and Price is hoping his presence will help calm the travel nerves of the mare.
“She has got her best mate (Silent Battler) with her, so hopefully that helps. They travel pretty well together,” Price said.
“Silent Battler has been working well and it is hard to split them.
“I will possibly head to the Oamaru Cup with him after Thursday.”
Price is also eyeing the Oamaru Cup with Henley, who will make his raceday return in the Agraforum Zumsil (1200m).
The seven-year-old gelding has been sidelined through injury since spring last year and Price is looking forward to getting him back to the races following a lengthy rehabilitation period.
“It is his first run back for a long time,” Price said.
“He ripped a ligament off the bone in his fetlock, so he had three months out and he got red laser treatment on his leg. The vet couldn’t believe how well it had healed when he scanned it again.
“He had five weeks with Craig Ferguson, the trotting trainer, in the swimming pool, and he has had a couple of months back with me, so he has had plenty of work and he is definitely fit.
“I would have taken him to the last Oamaru meeting but he was probably a run short. I wasn’t happy enough with him. He has had another couple of weeks work and is feeling good and working well.
“Whether the track will be too heavy for him will be another thing, but he always goes a cheeky race fresh.
“If everything goes to plan this week, he will probably go to the Oamaru Cup as well.”
Price is heading to the United States for a holiday in the coming weeks but has some big plans for the trio on her return.
“I am away over national week. We’ll be on our way to America for a few weeks,” she said.
“I will have to talk nicely with John Phillips to see if he will look after Fiery Red.
“Henley and Silent Battler will probably have a couple of weeks out while we are away and then they will come back for the Winton Cup, and if things go to plan.
“We might aim for the Coupland’s Bakeries Mile (Gr.3, 1600m) with Henley. We had him nominated for that last year."