The Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) at Pukekohe on Saturday is shaping as the best edition ever of the rich feature.
With no less than six stakes winners among the 12 entrants, the bumper field features star fillies Legarto ($2.50) and Prowess ($8), while the boys are headed by Wild Night ($2.80), Sacred Satono ($9) and The Intimidator ($12).
While Legarto and the well-supported Wild Night deserve their place at the top of the market, the Sacred Satono camp have plenty to be bullish about as they hope to upset the applecart.
The son of Satono Aladdin has won three and placed in two of his five starts this season, including victory in the Gr.3 Bonecrusher Stakes (1400m), and runner-up results in the Gr.3 Counties Bowl (1100m) and Listed Uncle Remus Stakes (1400m), with the colt losing a right hind plate in the latter race.
Trainers Bruce Wallace and Grant Cooksley have been pleased with his progression this season and believe he is peaking for his $1 million assignment on Saturday.
“He just keeps on improving all of the time,” Cooksley said.
“He is a horse that goes out and tries every time, and puts his best in. He has been working well and has been no trouble. He is pretty easy to get along with.
“He has improved since his last run. He will be there somewhere on Saturday.”
Sacred Satono has drawn barrier 12, which bodes no concern for Cooksley.
“You can place him anywhere he wants to be,” he said.
“He is not going to get blocked anywhere – he can lead, he can sit back, he can do whatever.
“The draw doesn’t worry me. He is a versatile horse.”
While Saturday’s line-up looks imposing, Cooksley is adamant his charge will feature in the finish.
“I reckon it is a pretty even race. There are four or five that could win the race, it will all come down to who gets the best run,” he said.
Sacred Satono was purchased out of Rich Hill Stud’s 2021 New Zealand Bloodstock Book 2 Yearling Sale draft for $34,000 by Wallace Thoroughbreds.
The stable will also be represented on Saturday by Gino Severini in the Gr.3 Brighthill Farm Yearlings Concorde Handicap (1200m).
The nine-year-old gelding finished 11th in the Gr.2 Rich Hill Mile (1600m) at Te Rapa on New Year’s Day after placing in the Gr.3 J Swap Sprint (1400m) at the Waikato track last month.
“The better track will suit him and going right-handed will be a lot better than what he has been going,” Cooksley said.
“He hasn’t really handled Te Rapa that well.
“He came through the Rich Hill Mile well, he just never got going and sat four deep the whole way. It’s a bit hard with 60 kilos on his back.
“1200m is probably a little bit short for him, but he should be there somewhere, he has been working well.”