Helena Baby turned heads when he enjoyed a trip away on Tuesday morning to further his build-up toward a second tilt at the opening Group One contest of the new season.
The striking grey son of Guillotine stretched his legs at Te Awamutu ahead of Saturday’s Tarzino Trophy (1400m) at Hastings where he finished third in the 2019 edition of the Hawke’s Bay Triple Crown opener.
Helena Baby subsequently relocated to Hong Kong, but failed to settle there and has quickly found winning form on his return to the Cambridge stable of his trainer and part-owner John Bell.
The eight-year-old has had a trouble-free preparation and with consecutive victories to his credit is currently on the third line of betting at $12 for the Tarzino Trophy.
“He’s all good to go and it’s most definitely all gone to plan. It’s been a while since he raced at Hastings, but he’s done little bits of work here and there to keep him happy,” Bell said.
“He had a gallop on the course proper at Te Awamutu this morning and the surface was brilliant.
“He went from the 1200m mark with (stablemate) Palm Springs and they worked up very pleasingly.
“A lot of people who hadn’t seen him in the flesh before said boy look at him, he’s a hell of an athlete. He might be grey and old, but he certainly demands a second look.”
Helena Baby was a dominant winner of the Listed Opunake Cup (1400m) at New Plymouth in July and last month was again untroubled to claim top open handicap honours at his most recent outing.
He will face a step up in class on Saturday, most noticeably against the favoured pair of runaway Gr.2 Foxbridge Plate (1200m) winner Imperatriz and last season’s multiple Group winner La Crique.
While Bell has the utmost respect for the opposition, he is taking a blinkered approach to the race.
“The others don’t come into it at all, some might come from behind and some may be on the pace or whatever, but Helena Baby doesn’t care about them and we just concentrate on him,” he said.
“He doesn’t know whatever class of horse they are and once you’re in the barriers it’s pretty even.”
While Helena Baby’s seven career wins have been on rain-affected footing, he can also be effective on better ground as he showed when third and only 1.2l behind Melody Belle on a Good4 track in the Tarzino three years ago.
“He couldn’t handle Hong Kong because it’s hard or very hard there and he didn’t acclimatise to the conditions and not all of them do,” Bell said.
“He’s come back here and I’m not worried about the track at all on Saturday. In New Zealand, he has handled all types of tracks, not the rock hard of course, and I’d just like a nice draw.
“Darrin Danis has the mount and he’s won on him before so we’re looking forward to Hastings.”
Danis has partnered Helena Baby on four occasions for an Opunake Cup victory and a placing.