All the key indicators point to the high-class mare Levante going close to plugging the only gap in her CV on New Year’s Day at Ellerslie where she will bid to add a Group One victory to her record.
The daughter of Proisir is a multiple black type winner and top honours in the Sistema Railway (1200m) will significantly boost her future broodmare value.
The lightly-raced Levante has enjoyed a faultless preparation with a pair of trial wins on either side of a resuming victory in the Listed Counties Bowl (1100m) at Pukekohe Park, clear signs that she will strip in prime order on Saturday.
“She had that last trial at Rotorua and an exhibition gallop at Matamata last Thursday and that was always the plan to do that,” said Ken Kelso, who trains the five-year-old with wife Bev.
Levante will be partnered by Ryan Elliot, who is making the most of his second chance with the mare.
He took the reins in her first five appearances, which resulted in four wins on the bounce before the sequence was broken at Trentham where she missed the jump by five lengths and then stormed home for second in the Gr.2 Wellington Guineas (1600m).
Samantha Collett gained the ride during Levante’s four-year-old campaign and they won the Counties Bowl, the Gr.2 Westbury Classic (1400m) and the Royal Descent Stakes (1600m) before finishing third in the Railway 12 months ago.
Levante has won eight of her 12 starts despite a string of tardy beginnings, but in more recent appearances she has jumped cleanly from the barrier and promises to give another bold account of herself from gate six on Saturday.
“It’s all been going well and everything has gone to plan. She is in the best possible condition she can be in and we’re very happy – it’s all up to her and the rider now,” Kelso said.
As long as Levante races up to expectations on the weekend, her following target will be the Gr.1 JR & N Berkett Telegraph at Trentham on January 15.
She is raced by Ancroft Stud principals Philip and Catherine Brown with long-time friends Tony and Mary Enting, former touring golf professional Mark Tapper and Sandringham Investments.
Brown, who foaled down Levante at his Matamata farm, put the ownership group together after purchasing her in a private deal from breeder Scott Williams.
Meanwhile, the responsibility of defending Levante’s Westbury Classic title on Karaka Million night on January 22 will rest with in-form stablemate Les Crayeres.
The Sir Peter Vela-bred and raced daughter of Redoute’s Choice has won five of her 12 starts and found the line strongly last time out to finish runner-up in an open handicap on Boxing Day.
“She will head to the Westbury Classic. We’ll keep her on the fresh side, she races best that way, and her 1400m record (three wins) is quite strong,” Kelso said.
The regally-bred Les Crayeres is a full-sister to the stakes winners Dolmabache, Pure Elegance and half-sister to Cote D’Or and an impressive pedigree that features the Group One winners Darci Brahma, his dam Grand Echezeaux, and the Caulfield and Melbourne Cup heroine Ethereal.