New Plymouth trainer Allan Sharrock is using Saturday’s Gr.3 Hunterville Vet Club Metric Mile (1600m) as a crucial step along the road to bigger and better things for Ladies Man.
The $100,000 feature at Awapuni will be the third start of the campaign for Ladies Man, who resumed with a third placing over 1200m on August 19 before a strong-finishing second to Group One mare Mustang Valley over 1400m at New Plymouth last Saturday.
“I thought he was outstanding last Saturday,” Sharrock said. “He’s progressing extremely well. Michael McNab was very keen to stick with him after that last-start run, and I think he’s going into this weekend in great order.”
The TAB rates Ladies Man a $4.50 favourite in its Metric Mile market, with Cork ($6) and Belardo Boy ($6.50) the only other two in single figures.
The winner of the Gr.3 Trentham Stakes (2100m) in January and a placegetter in the Gr.2 Auckland Cup (3200m) in March, Ladies Man is in line for an opportunity at Group One level within the next few weeks.
“This race on Saturday should set him up nicely for a shot at the Livamol, and he should be spot on for that,” Sharrock said.
The Gr.1 Livamol Classic (2040m) will be run on the final day of the Hawke’s Bay Spring Carnival on October 14, and Ladies Man is currently rated a $12 chance for the $450,000 feature.
Further down the track, the Zed gelding has been nominated for the Gr.1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) on November 7. When the weights for the famous Flemington two-miler were announced earlier this week, Ladies Man was assigned only 50 kilograms.
“That isn’t much weight for a big horse like him,” Sharrock said. “That’s still a very long-range target, but the connections are keen to have a crack at it. He hasn’t put a foot wrong so far, and that’s all you can ask at this stage of a preparation.”
Ladies Man is joined in Saturday’s Metric Mile field by stablemate Justaskme, who will carry the topweight of 60.5kg.
That has been a familiar position this spring for the 12-race winner, who has lugged big weights in recent weeks to win the Listed Opunake Cup (1400m), finish a close fourth in the Gr.3 Winter Cup (1600m), and run another creditable fourth behind Mustang Valley last weekend.
“He’s not having an easy time of it with his big weights, but he keeps going out there and carrying them and doing his best,” Sharrock said. “He ran a good race the other day, and he’s actually jumping out of his skin at the moment. He’s looking great. If there’s a bit of rain around later in the week, that’ll bring him into it even more.”
Sharrock’s other runner on Saturday is the high-class mare Darci La Bella, who will line up as topweight in the Carrfield Livestock/Wools Of NZ (1200m).
The Darci La Bella mare was in outstanding form last season, winning four of her five starts including the Gr.2 Manawatu Challenge Stakes (1400m), Gr.2 Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1400m) and Gr.3 Taranaki Breeders’ Stakes (1400m).
She took a fresh-up shot at the Gr.2 Foxbridge Plate (1200m) at Te Rapa on August 26, but finished only seventh and was subsequently withdrawn from this month’s Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) at Hastings.
“She was substandard in the Foxbridge,” Sharrock said. “We had no choice but to duck the Tarzino after a performance like that. She did have a bit of a floating injury earlier in her preparation, so it’s possible she wasn’t quite 100 percent that day – but I believe she is now.
“She’s had a really good lead-up to this race on Saturday. She won a jumpout on Monday morning in good style. She’s going to have to carry 62 kilograms, which is a big ask for a little horse like her, but I can’t fault her and I expect her to run well.
“The obvious target from here is the Breeders’ Stakes at Hawera again (on October 7). That’s at weight-for-age, so she’ll get in beautifully there."