Trainer Mark Walker is looking forward to Saturday’s bumper meeting at Te Rapa where he has strong chances in both Group One races – the BCD Group Sprint (1400m) and the Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m).
Both races have attracted an all-star cast, but the nation’s leading trainer is well represented with Imperatriz and Maven Belle to contest the sprint, while Wild Night and Campionessa tackle the Herbie Dyke.
Triple Group One winner Imperatriz is thriving this campaign and enters Saturday’s contest as the winner of the Gr.1 Railway Stakes (1200m) and Gr.2 Westbury Classic (1400m) and TAB Bookmakers have marked her $2.70 favourite.
“She’s going probably as well as we have had her,” Walker said.
“We have trained her a little bit differently this time around and she seems to be responding. We are using the treadmill with her quite a bit and not having a rider on her back so often is really working. She has been a mare that has had a few back problems in the past.
“She had a gallop in between races at Tauranga last Sunday and her work was first-class, I’m very happy with her.
“It will be one of the strongest races of the season, that’s for sure.”
Last-start Group Three winner Maven Belle adds intrigue to the field, with the three-year-old filly to carry 53.5kgs with Craig Zackey to ride under the weight-for age conditions.
“Maven Belle is up against the older horses but she deserves her opportunity,” Walker said.
“She has got a great record. She probably should be unbeaten and was very unlucky in the Sistema Stakes (Gr.1, 1200m) as a two-year-old. Her form is very strong.
“I’d definitely be with Imperatriz but Maven Belle deserves her chance, that’s for sure.”
Imperatriz is likely to have a break following Saturday’s performance and be set for the Brisbane Winter Carnival, where races like the Gr.1 Doomben 10,000 (1200m) and Gr.1 Kingsford Smith Cup (1300m) look suitable targets.
Walker will also have a strong hand in the Herbie Dyke Stakes where Wild Night is $3.80 second favourite behind fellow three-year-old Sharp ‘N’ Smart ($3.20) as they take on the older horses.
Premiership leading jockey Michael McNab will partner Wild Night at 54kgs, with Opie Bossson to ride in-form stablemate Campionessa.
“Opie was thrilled with Wild Night’s work this week but unfortunately he can’t make the weight on Saturday but Michael McNab is flying,” Walker said.
Wild Night strung together five victories in succession before finishing runner-up in the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) last start behind Prowess where he was galloped on and was treated for a superficial wound post-race.
“He came through the Karaka Million 3YO really well,” Walker said. “I think he is a bit better left-handed as well and Opie is of the same opinion so we think he will run well.
“I am confident he will run out a strong 2000m.”
Five-year-old mare Campionessa is a two-time winner at Te Rapa including a dominant Gr.2 Rich Hill Mile (1600m) success two-starts back.
“Campionessa is going really well and she has got a good record at Te Rapa. She is not just there to make up the numbers and she is a chance,” Walker said.
“She is rated 97 and is virtually forced to run at weight-for-age in New Zealand but I think she will measure up.”