Te Akau Racing couldn’t have wished for a better fit at Hastings on Saturday for talented mare Romancing The Moon.
The Mark Walker and Sam Bergerson-prepared daughter of El Roca will bid to continue her winning ways in the Gr.3 Valley D’Vine Restaurant Spring Sprint (1400m), in which she will carry the minimum 53kg.
She will be opposed by an in-form stablemate Puketiro, who has been handed no favours with a wide gate, while their trainers are hoping for Group One honours for Aromatic when she steps out in the Livamol Classic (2040m).
Last season’s Gr.1 Levin Classic (1600m) winner Romancing The Moon successfully opened her preparation at Taupo last month with a powerful front-running performance.
“She had a fantastic three-year-old season and she has come back really well,” Bergerson said.
“Obviously, she gets in really well under the conditions and is perfectly weighted.
“She only trialled okay before resuming and has taken a bit longer to get fit this time around and her first-up win was a tough effort.
“She has drawn a nice gate (four) and should get a lovely run. Her work here on Tuesday on the course proper with Puketiro was really good so she’s in fine form.”
Puketiro has won four of her five starts and the Savabeel mare finished strongly to claim a Rating 75 contest at Tauranga on her return from a break.
“She’s lightly raced and very progressive, but she has got a niggly barrier draw so she’ll probably have to go back,” Bergerson said.
“That’s going to make it really tough, but we are happy with the way she has come through her first-up run.
“We thought she may have been a bit vulnerable, but she stuck her neck out and we’re happy with how she has trained on.”
Aromatic will be making her third appearance at the carnival following midfield finishes in the Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) and the Gr.1 Arrowfield Stud Plate (1600m).
“I don’t think she’s out of it and we’ll probably go back from the barrier and hopefully Warren (Kennedy) can get some cover one off in midfield,” Bergerson said.
“The step up to 2040m is key and we certainly weren’t disappointed with her first two runs at Hastings.
“At the 1400m, she was strong enough through the line and then in the second leg she unfortunately got knocked over at the top of the straight. I thought she did really well to pick herself up and we can’t fault her.”
The stable will also have a strong hand spearheaded by the Gr.3 Barneswood Farm Stakes (1400m) contender Viva Vienna at the Ashburton meeting.
The filly has won both of her starts this campaign, including the Listed Canterbury Belle Stakes (1200m) and will be stepping up in trip for the first time.
“It could be a push and you don’t really know until you have a go. Hopefully, she can get a bit of cover and relax and find the line,” Bergerson said.
“The goal is the 1000 Guineas (Gr.1, 1600m), but if the 1400m proves a stretch we will have to reassess, but she is a really tough and speedy filly and we know she will give it her all.
Another strong chance for the team is last season’s Gr.1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) runner-up Mehzebeen, who steps out in the Agraforum Comcat Handicap (2200m).
“We had to rush her a little bit to get her up in trip and now she’s had that one over 2000m it looks a really nice race for her,” Bergerson said.
“She has drawn a good gate, but she has been a touch slow away which is frustrating and letting herself down in the barriers.
“Hopefully, she jumps away and gets a nice run from the draw. She hasn’t had much luck in two runs down there, so hopefully Saturday is her day."