Woodcote Lass scores first-up in the South Island for owner Kevin Hickman

A gritty win by promising filly Woodcote Lass at Riccarton on Saturday has kicked off Matamata trainer Stephen Autridge’s southern campaign in the best possible style.

Autridge has based a five-strong team at Riccarton for the past few weeks as they get ready to tackle some of the feature events at November’s New Zealand Cup & Show Week for owner Kevin Hickman.

Autridge’s contingent is spearheaded by Gr.1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) nominees Woodcote Lass and Last Hoorah, while he also has three mares bought by Hickman in England in Red Chois, Blue Valley and Unbeatable Dancer on hand.

Woodcote Lass and Last Hoorah clashed in Saturday’s NZ Bloodstock Three-Year-Old (1000m) contest with Woodcote Lass prevailing in a stirring battle with Miss Federer while Last Hoorah closed off nicely to finish 8th in her raceday debut.

“I was pleased with both runs as they went as we had expected,” Autridge said.

“Woodcote Lass is just a real little professional and is always up for a fight.

“She is very relaxed in her manner at home but she is tough and seems to thrive when she is in a scrap.

“Last Hoorah is more of a staying filly that won’t be at her best until she steps up to 1400m and further.

“She got home nicely so it was a good debut effort.”

Autridge believes that Showcasing filly Woodcote Lass also has the natural attributes to see out the 1600m distance of the 1000 Guineas despite her pedigree suggesting she is better suited to the sprint distances.

“She has always shown us plenty of talent and when she gets on good ground, I think she will be even better,” he said.

“She beat a smart type in Quick Thinker when she won her first race on a wet track at Rotorua and I don’t think she appreciated the Heavy10 on Saturday that much either.

“She just goes out there to win and takes it all in her stride but the way she relaxes in her races suggests to me that she will see out 1600m.

“We have talked to her race and trackwork riders and they are of the same opinion.

“She will go to the Canterbury Belle Stakes (Listed, 1200m) next and then we will step her up in distance after that as we track towards the Guineas.”

Meanwhile Autridge’s three-year-old classic contender Kurt has hit a snag in his build-up to a possible tilt at the Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) following a lacklustre performance at Hastings last week.

“I wasn’t that happy with his run at Hastings on the first day of their carnival as he seemed to be in a little discomfort when he pulled up,” Autridge said.

“He got twisted sideways early in the race and never really hit-out after that so we are taking him to the vet clinic on Monday for a thorough going over.

“If there is something troubling him, they should be able to find it and we can then make plans from there.

“Hopefully it is just a niggle and we can keep him on a Guineas path.”

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