A week after launching Lantern Way into the three-year-old spotlight in last Saturday’s Gr.2 Hawke’s Bay Guineas (1400m), in-form trainer Lisa Latta is about to resume the racing career of a stablemate who has already proven herself to be an age-group standout.
Top-class filly Pignan will make her first start of the 2023-24 season in Saturday’s Metcalfe Real Estate 3YO (1200m) at Awapuni.
The daughter of Staphanos was never out of a place from six starts as a juvenile last season, winning twice and placing in all of the other four. She was a placegetter in the Gr.2 Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (1200m) and Listed Wellesley Stakes (1100m) through the summer months, then hit far greater heights in the autumn with a last-start triumph in the Gr.1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) at Awapuni on April 1.
Pignan had a setback in the early stages of her build-up for this campaign, but Latta reported that she has quickly put that behind her and is ready to put her best foot forward this weekend.
“She’s trialled nicely and looks fantastic, I couldn’t be happier with her,” the Awapuni trainer said. “She had a little hiccup early in the preparation, but nothing major. It can just be a bit of a difficult time for the three-year-olds at this stage of the season. She’s definitely on the right track now.”
Pignan is still nominated for the Gr.1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton on November 18, and the TAB rates her a $14 chance in a market headed by Molly Bloom ($5), Impendabelle ($8) and Luberon ($8).
“If everything goes to plan this weekend, we’ll probably try to get her to Wellington after this and then take it from there,” Latta said, referring to the Guineas Prelude (1400m) at Trentham on October 21.
Pignan is one of two Group One winners in Latta’s team at Hawera on Saturday. The other is Belclare, who will take her place in a particularly strong renewal of the Gr.3 Grangewilliam Stud Taranaki Breeders’ Stakes (1400m).
The daughter of Per Incanto had a career-best season as a five-year-old in 2022-23, winning the Gr.3 Canterbury Breeders’ Stakes (1400m) and Listed Wairarapa Breeders’ Stakes (1600m) before capping her campaign with a spectacular three-length win over Skew Wiff in the Gr.1 New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1600m).
Belclare caught the eye with a flying finish into fourth when she resumed in the Gr.2 Foxbridge Plate (1200m) on August 26, but she finished only 11th in the Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) at Hastings two weeks later.
“She got caught three wide in the Tarzino and the effort told,” Latta said. “She was also on quite a quick back-up from the Foxbridge, with the trip away to Te Rapa as well, so we gave her a quiet few days after that race and her work has been great since then.”
Seven of Belclare’s nine career wins have come on good ground, so Latta is hoping to see continued improvement in the Hawera track, which was rated a Soft6 on Friday morning.
Another high-profile Hawera runner for Latta on Saturday is Charms Star, who is a likely improver in the NZ Farmers Livestock Ltd Egmont Cup (2100m).
A placegetter in the Gr.1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) and Gr.1 Queensland Oaks (2200m) as a three-year-old, and later a winner of the Gr.3 Manawatu Breeders’ Stakes (2000m), Charms Star finished near the tail of the field when she resumed over 1600m at Hastings on September 9.
“It was short of her best distance first-up, and she also just stood in the gates a little bit,” Latta said. “Going up to 2100m will suit. I’ve taken the blinkers off her as well.
“I’m happy with her. We scratched her from Hastings last Saturday because of the track, so we’re just looking for better ground and hopefully will get that this weekend. She holds a nomination for the New Zealand Cup (Gr.3, 3200m), so we’ll continue along that path and see how we go.”