Shane Kennedy and Anna Furlong are well-served in the three-year-old fillies’ ranks and will attack Saturday’s feature age group event at Riccarton with an enviable mix of quality and quantity.
They will provide more than a third of the field in the Listed New Zealand Bloodstock Canterbury Belle Stakes (1200m) with all five of their representatives also holding nominations for the Gr.1 Barneswood Farm New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m).
While Kennedy and Furlong are blessed with an abundance of young talent in their stable, the downside is they are forced to pit them against each other to further their spring aspirations.
“It’s quite tough, but certainly not a situation to be upset about having plenty of handy fillies,” Furlong said.
“It’s unfortunate and there are not a whole lot of options so they will all get their chances on Saturday.
“They are all nominated for the 1000 Guineas and we just have to go race by race and see how they come up and who can make that big date.”
Defiant was a two-time winner last season and is the highest rated of the stable’s contenders while Kikimora will also resume in the Canterbury Belle and Madame Giselle is coming off an unlucky debut performance.
Perfectly Suited and Blue Solitaire will be making their first starts for the stable after beginning their careers with Stephen Autridge and Kris Shailer at Matamata.
They are raced by breeder and former Valachi Downs principal Kevin Hickman, who has reduced his thoroughbred holdings but has sent these two fillies south to continue a successful association with Kennedy and Furlong.
“We have been really lucky to have had a wonderful relationship with Valachi and Kevin and Jo,” Furlong said.
“We are really thankful to be able to keep their colours going around and we are happy with where both the fillies are at.”
Perfectly Suited was a debut winner at Wanganui last season and the daughter of Savile Row then ran second at Trentham before a break while Almanzor filly Blue Solitaire was a minor placegetter in one of her two appearances.
Defiant finished fourth behind Diss Is Dramatic, a race rival again, in the Listed Champagne Stakes (1200m) last term to round out a successful juvenile preparation for the Tavistock filly.
“We are happy with how she has come back and don’t tend to get a good feel for them on the polytrack, but we thought she trialled up pretty well against the older horses,” Furlong said.
By Shamexpress, Kikimora placed in her first three appearances as a two-year-old before she ran fifth in the Champagne Stakes and has been a trial winner ahead of her resuming run.
“She was in with maiden three-year-olds and just jumped and ran and had a good blow so that was what we were after,” Furlong said.
“I would lean a bit toward Kikimora, we have always rated her and she was never really a natural two-year-old.
“She was more of a three-year-old type and she has come up really well. She has got that experience of racing up the chute under her belt.”
Meanwhile, Madame Giselle finished sixth at the first time of asking earlier this month and the daughter of Time Test was unlucky not to have finished closer.
“She was fairly green and drawing one can be a bit dicey sometimes,” Furlong said. “She really found the line strongly when she got a clear run and she has taken natural improvement from that leading into Saturday.”