Exciting Christchurch three-year-old Penvose Lad will head to Oamaru on Friday to kick off a campaign aimed at the Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton in November.
The Shane Kennedy and Anna Furlong-trained US Navy Flag gelding showed plenty of talent in three Riccarton starts as an autumn two-year-old, winning one and beaten narrow margins in his other two starts, culminating in his short head defeat at the hands of Illicit Dreams in the Listed Champagne Stakes (1200m).
That form looked good when Illicit Dreams resumed with a close second to Viva Vienna at Riccarton last weekend, further confirming Furlong's good opinion of her charge.
"Illicit Dreams went a good race the other day which was nice to see, and we think our bloke has come back just as good as last time too," Furlong said.
"We're really happy with how he's come through his spell and come on since his two-year-old preparation. We didn't want to trial on the synthetic, so we thought we'd use Oamaru as a good starting point for him.
"He probably showed a bit more than we'd expected him to as a two-year-old. He showed plenty of grit in that last race. He showed he'd get further than 1200m too, which is a bonus."
While Furlong was expecting Friday's race to improve Penvose Lad's fitness for feature spring three-year-old racing, she predicted his class would see him competitive in the Positive Signs + Print 1200, even in Rating 75 company.
"He's pretty forward. We gave him a jumpout last week to help bring him on," she said.
"It won't be easy in 75 grade but he doesn't carry a lot of weight and it will help us get a line on him. We just want to see him hitting the line to show us he's on target for what we have planned for him."
Bred by Inglewood Stud, Penvose Lad was an $80,000 Karaka Book 1 purchase for Kennedy and Furlong's Champagne Racing, who prepare him for the Duncan and Mullally families.
Furlong said Penvose Lad would step up to 1400m at his next start before a likely tilt at the Gr.3 Barnswood Farm Stakes (1400m) at Ashburton on October 14.
"He's nominated for the (2000) Guineas so we want to get ready to run the mile," Furlong said.
"The key will be whether he can settle further than 1200m - he's a bit of a jump-and-run horse but he raced like a horse looking for more ground at the end of his last preparation.
"He's not an overly tall horse but he's lengthened out a lot with the spell and he's just starting to furnish nicely now. He's a strong boy. He gives 110 percent every day and his will to put in is definitely there."
Kennedy and Furlong have six entries for Oamaru, the others being fellow three-year-olds El Chapeau and Quintabelle, Blue Solitaire, Lady's Legacy and Secrets De Sothys.
"Quintabelle is a really nice filly. She's going to take a bit of time and get over a bit of ground, but it would be nice to see her hitting the line well. El Chapeau trialled up well and he might be a dark horse for us," Furlong said.
"We've got 14 three-year-olds around us this season, which is a lot for us so hopefully one or two of them can really make the grade. It would be nice but you can't do it if you don't have the right kind of horse."