Fresh from a lucrative triumph on Boxing Day, Karaka trainer Lance Noble is targeting three big-money races at Te Rapa on Sunday.
Noble, who trains for Cambridge Stud owners Brendan and Jo Lindsay, produced Habana to win the Stella Artois Championship Final (1500m) at Pukekohe, driving clear under a heady Warren Kennedy ride to beat Lady Maroal and Impresa.
It was the 10th triumph of the season for Noble, whose strike rate of 4.5 runs per victory is bettered only by Robbie Patterson and Ashley Meadows among trainers with more than five wins to date in season 2022-23.
“You’re only as good as the horses you’re given and I’m very lucky to have the support of Cambridge Stud. We’re assessing horses well here and as a result there’s a lot of horses you don’t see get to the track,” he said.
“I’m in a very fortunate position where I am, and with the facilities we’ve got on the farm, and it’s working well.”
Now Noble is looking towards three significant races at Te Rapa. He has the former Australian-trained mare Letzbeglam in the Gr.1 Sistema Railway (1200m), Polygon in the Gr.2 Elsdon Park Royal Stakes (2000m) and Aquacade in the Dunstan Feeds Stayers Championship Final (2400m).
Letzbeglam faces a tough task in the Railway, tackling the multiple Group One-winning mares Levante and Imperatriz under set weights and penalties conditions. But she was good enough to win a Gr.2 Blue Diamond Prelude (1100m) at Caulfield at her second start after a three-wide trip, and started second favourite in the Gr.1 Blue Diamond (1200m) itself, finishing sixth.
She was highly impressive winning the Gr.3 Counties Bowl (1100m) on November 19 and was rated a $9 chance to win the Railway, a race sponsored by her owner’s former company, on the strength of that effort.
“She’s on that third line of betting, which is probably where she deserves to be,” Noble said.
“She’s in really good form, she’s a great horse fresh, and she had a good gallop at Te Rapa last week. I think she’s going to present well. All we need is a reasonable barrier draw and given her Australian form, she’ll be competitive at her best.”
Polygon will be one of the better-fancied runners in the Royal Stakes after her victory in the Gr.3 Eulogy Stakes (1600m), a race that wasn’t on her schedule until the December 10 Awapuni abandonment saw it delayed a week and moved to Te Rapa.
“We were originally going to take on Legarto in the Eight Carat but the Eulogy being moved worked well for us and we’ve been able to win the Eulogy, avoid Legarto in the Eight Carat, and aim at the Royal,” he said.
“Whether she gets a strong 2000m we’re not sure, but very few of them have gone further than a mile anyway. She’s in good order and she hit the line very well in the Eulogy. Sometimes those three-year-old fillies can get away with 2000m at their own age group.”
Aquacade heads to Te Rapa after a series of strong performances, having won a Rating 75 event over 2100m at Pukekohe in November and then finished third in a similar class event over 2200m at Te Rapa earlier this month
“She’s got a good record at Te Rapa, which helps, and she probably needed that run last start when she had to work quite hard in the first half of the race,” Noble said.
No plans beyond the Stella Artois final have been made as yet for Habana, who joined Noble this year after having his first five starts for Tony Pike in Cambridge.
“Tony did a great job with him but he had a few little issues and needed to be gelded, and I got the benefit of him being gelded and being able to have a decent spell,” Noble said.
“He’s a little bit quirky but I think the farm environment suits him. He’s a horse with a lot of upside who is maturing.
“I think as he gets a bit older he’ll still keep maturing as long as we don’t rush him, so we’ll probably take him through the grades, but in the autumn a race like the Easter Handicap (Gr.3, 1600m) might potentially be a target.”
More than half of Noble’s victories this season have been with Warren Kennedy in the saddle, with the South African rider also recording his first Group One success in New Zealand on Boxing Day aboard the Graham Richardson and Rogan Norvall-trained Defibrillate in the Zabeel Classic.
“He’s quite a patient rider who positions his horse well in the race and doesn’t panic,” Noble said. “He’s fit in really well, especially considering he’s only been here three months or so.”