Lisa Latta should get a good guide to how the rehabilitation of top stayer Platinum Invador is going when he joins stablemate Charms Star in the Gr.3 SkyCity Hamilton Waikato Cup (2400m) on Saturday.
Charms Star and Platinum Invador head to the feature at Te Rapa after finishing second and fourth, respectively, in the Listed Wanganui Cup (2040m) last month.
Platinum Invador was one of New Zealand’s best middle-distance horses between 2019 and 2021, winning or placing in numerous black type races over that period, but he injured a tendon when racing in Queensland in May 2021 and missed the entire 2021-22 season as a result.
He finally made it back to the track on November 13, finishing third in a 1600m open handicap, prior to his good effort second-up in the Wanganui Cup.
“Obviously he had 18 months off, so he’s on the improve, definitely,” Latta said.
“This is his third run back, so he should be getting somewhere near his best.”
Latta said Platinum Invador had come through his race at Wanganui well and appeared to be as good as ever.
“He’s just his normal self. You can’t notice that he’s had his injury, but obviously he’s a day to day proposition,” she said.
Charms Star was good enough as a three-year-old to finish second in both the Gr.1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) and Gr.1 Queensland Oaks (2200m). She raced in the 2021 spring in Australia without much reward but picked up the Gr.3 Manawatu Breeders’ Stakes (2000m) last April in a three-race New Zealand autumn campaign.
So far this season Charms Star has been building into good form, with her Wanganui Cup placing coming four weeks after she ran third in the Listed Feilding Cup (2100m). The Waikato Cup will be her fifth run this campaign.
“She gets in at a nice weight. Her last two starts she hasn’t had all favours, she’s just been getting so far back and it makes it tough work,” Latta said.
“But they’ve been good runs and she’s got home well both times. She’s definitely a chance at Te Rapa.”
Jockey Ryan Elliot, who was aboard Platinum Invador for much of the 2020-21 season, will be reunited with him on Saturday for the first time since his enforced injury break, while Charms Star will be ridden by the in-form Wiremu Pinn, who was aboard when she won the Manawatu Breeders’ Stakes.
Latta hopes to have both stayers back at Te Rapa on New Year’s Day for the Gr.3 Windsor Park Stud Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2400m), a race Platinum Invador won in 2020 and finished second the following year when it was known as the City of Auckland Cup.
Both horses are nominated for the two major staying summer features, the Gr.3 NZ Campus for Innovation & Sport Wellington Cup (3200m) at Trentham on January 28 and the Gr.2 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup (3200m) on March 11, but Latta said it wasn’t certain they would both be aimed at those races.
“It’s probably too far ahead because we need to see what weight Platinum Invador’s going to get,” Latta said. “We thought that there might be something else that would bring the weights down for the Waikato Cup, but there isn’t so it makes it tough for him carrying near on top weight.”
Latta also has seven horses nominated for her home track of Awapuni on Saturday, headed by Old Town Road in the open 1400m handicap.
Old Town Road will be backing up a week after finishing third to class horses Shamus and Spring Tide over 1200m at Trentham should he make it to the start.
“The 1200 was a bit sharp for him last week, but he went a nice race and tried hard. If there’s a bit of rain we’ll definitely look to back him up,” Latta said.
Three of Latta’s horses – Lurid, Oceanides, and Sir Beets – have dual nominations for Awapuni, and their choice of race may depend upon whether they make the cut for the final fields for their first choices.
Her other four nominees are Amosia and Prioress in the Rating 75 1300m event and Reine D’Amour in a Rating 65 1200m race.
“A few of them want a little bit of moisture around, so we’ll just see what the weather does.”