Ruakaka trainer Chris Gibbs admits Saturday's Northbeam Strong Stuff 2100 at Ruakaka isn't an ideal fit for his talented galloper Chevron, but said the race is a means to an end.
The El Roca five-year-old gelding finished a desperately unlucky third at Ruakaka three weeks ago in the Bream Bay Sprint (1400m) but now faces a quick jump up to 2100m this weekend.
Combined with that is an 8kg jump in weights to 62.5kg as Chevron drops back to Rating 75 in what looms as an important lead-up to the ITM/GIB Winter Championship Final (2100m) at Ruakaka on July 15.
"It's a bit of a tough ask for him. I would have preferred a mile but there was nothing else for him to get points to qualify for the final," Gibbs said.
"He's in very good order but he's jumped straight up from 1400m and he's got to carry a lot of weight but he's got to earn points.
"He might be a touch vulnerable second-up and he's still a bit chubby, but he's a very clean-winded horse and he'll run a good race. He's done a lot of beach work and I think he'll run a slasher."
Gibbs was delighted with Chevron's progress since his resuming run but he's still shaking his head when he reflects on that effort.
"He was terribly unlucky. He should have won that race quite comfortably. He bounced off the rails a few times and was climbing on the top of them trying to get a run," GIbbs said.
"He had a nice trial at Avondale on quite a heavy track before that first-up run over 1400m and he was running through the line brilliantly at the end of that.
"He had a good four or five months in the paddock over summer and with most of the El Rocas, they seem to get better with age. He's still not quite fully mature yet but he's come back holding his condition a lot better. We've got a little bit more horse to work with."
A winner of four of his 15 starts, including three wins and five placings in 10 starts on his home track, Chevron is the TAB's $2.50 final field favourite.
While the Winter Championship Final is his chief goal this preparation, GIbbs revealed that he and Chevron's owners, Markwood Lodge's Matijasevich family, have considered an Australian campaign, with the $A3 million The Big Dance (1600m) at Randwick in November mooted as a possible target.
"I'd love to try and qualify him for The Big Dance but we'd just have to try and win one of those Cups somewhere to get in. You've got to have goals though, don't you?"
Gibbs will also produce Cruisy Lass in the same race on Saturday and was pleased with her.
"We're heading down the same path with her, heading for the ITM Final. She's going well and it would be great to get a result for her. She's not badly weighted either," GIbbs said of the $4.20 second favourite.
Gibbs' other runners at Ruakaka on Saturday are Canulovemeagain, Charm Zafarm, Diamond Girl, Cakebytheocean and Pippy.