A jumping future is calling Group One performer Helena Baby, but not before he gets his chance to try and make it a hat-trick of wins in the Listed Sinclair Electrical And Refrigeration Opunake Cup (1400m) at New Plymouth on Saturday.
The rising nine-year-old gelding is undefeated in the Taranaki feature, having won it in 2019 and returned from Hong Kong last year to double his tally in the race.
Trainer John Bell is hopeful the grey gelding can further his record in the race, however, he has plenty of respect for his rivals, including Group One performer Justaskme, who won the 2021 edition of the race.
“We have schooled him a few times and he is working nicely. He is quite an athletic fellow, so we will head in that direction,” Bell said.
“He won the race before going to Hong Kong and he won it after he came back, but he is older and greyer now.
“There is a lot of form in the race, particularly from a few locals. He has got a liking for the track and he will give it a good shake.”
Saturday may well be Helena Baby’s last hurrah at stakes level, with Bell eyeing a future over jumps with his charge.
“On the 31st of the month he will do a maiden hurdle trial, he jumps magnificently,” Bell said.
“We started jumping him to change his environment from going round and round in circles. We were working him out in the centre grass and there just happened to be a few logs and a few poles and he flew them.
“We have just gone on and schooled him a number of times. He has shown that he is very capable.
“Nick Downs has done a huge amount of work on him, and he is a very clever horse over hurdles.
“We will trial him up and toward the end of the (jumps) season, we would look kindly at a maiden hurdle.”
Bell will also head to New Plymouth with Peecee Pussycat, who will contest the Revital Fertiliser (2000m).
“Peecee Pussycat is an out-and-out stayer,” Bell said.
“He is a very capable galloper, but he has needed time. We have looked after him and when he is ready to handle a lot more pressure then we will do that.”
Meanwhile, Bell will also be represented at Tauranga on Saturday by Ata Rangi and Hot Salsa.
“Ata Rangi may head to Tauranga in the 65 2100m. We are looking at a four-kilo claim with him at Tauranga and that will suit him quite nicely,” he said.
The seven-year-old gelding is another that could have a future as a jumper.
“He has been schooling as well. He is fit and is a pretty aggressive horse and he attacks his jumps,” Bell said.