Four-year-old gelding Marchand has a good opportunity at Matamata on Saturday to return to the form that earned him stakes honours last season.
The son of Burgundy measured up well in strong company as a three-year-old and looks well-placed to turn his fortunes around in the Harry & Rick Lowe Handicap (1600m).
He will be ridden by champion South African jockey Warren Kennedy, who will partner three of trainer Lance Noble’s four runners, which all carry the familiar gold and black silks of Cambridge Stud principals Brendan and Jo Lindsay.
Marchand has won two of his nine starts and finished third behind subsequent Group One winner La Crique in the Gr.2 Avondale Guineas (2100m), having previously also run third to multiple black-type winner On The Bubbles in the Listed Uncle Remus Stakes (1400m).
He ended his campaign with an out of character performance when last in the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m), which immediately set alarm bells ringing.
“He didn’t do much wrong last season before he chipped a fetlock in the Derby, that was his worst run,” Noble said.
“We were expecting him to run top three and when he ran so poorly we knew something had gone amiss.”
Marchand underwent successful surgery and following a spell, resumed with a decent effort for seventh on an unsuitable Te Rapa surface at the end of last month.
“He’s come back well and I thought his first-up run was really good, he doesn’t like wet tracks,” Noble said.
“He has improved and we are expecting a pretty bold showing from him on Saturday.”
Group One-winning rider Kennedy opened his winning New Zealand account last weekend and will also ride stablemates Habana in the NZB Ready to Run Sale Trainers’ Series (1200m) and Polygon in the NZB Pearl Series Insurance Race (1200m).
“Warren has been coming out to the farm and riding a fair bit of trackwork for us and we’re keen to support him as much as we can,” Noble said.
Habana has won two of his five starts and the son of Zoustar has been gelded since his last appearance when out of the money in the Gr.2 Wellington Guineas (1400m).
“He is first-up for us, he was with Tony Pike and had a few issues and he was gelded. He’s come home here and is probably a bit more settled in a quieter environment,” Noble said.
“He’s a bit quirky, but talented, and his trial was quite nice. He’s got a poor draw so we’ll ride him back and hopefully he’ll be hitting the line.”
Polygon finished in behind the major players in both of her juvenile starts last season and the Highly Recommended filly resumed with a strong last start win at Avondale earlier this month.
“It’s always hard to line them up when they’re maidens and it was a nice win,” Noble said.
“This race is fillies and mares only and I think she will get a bit further and has trained on well. She looks quite bright and I think she will measure up to the next level.”
Noble’s other runner Funny Girl will benefit from apprentice Tayla Mitchell’s 3kg claim in the Richards Racing Ltd Handicap (1300m).
The daughter of Showcasing will be returning to action following a three-month break and has had a trial to prepare her for her return.
“She’s out of her class and she’s very small and in a Rating 75 she would have to carry 57kg and then I couldn’t get the claimer I wanted and we did have Habana in that,” Noble said.
Funny Girl hasn’t raced since early July, but has trialled at Te Awamutu and is a past winner on the course.
Meanwhile, Noble’s impressive debut winner Luberon is being prepared for an early crack at black type company.
“She is back in and will trial next week at Matamata and head to Pukekohe on November 19,” he said, referring to the Listed Barfoot & Thompson Challenge Stakes (1100m).
Luberon credited her Cambridge Stud-based sire Embellish with his first winner when she romped home at Ruakaka last month after making all the running over 800m.