Dual-Island trainer Stephen Marsh is looking forward to Saturday where he will be lining-up progressive gallopers at both the Te Rapa and Riccarton meetings.
In the north, he will saddle a trio of promising three-year-olds who are on trial to head to Christchurch next month for Guineas targets.
Bourbonaire (NZ) (Darci Brahma) and All Black Bourbon (NZ) (Highly Recommended) will contest the Gr.2 James and Annie Sarten Memorial Stakes (1400m) and Marsh is taking a fair bit of confidence into the race with the former after his runner-up performance behind Aegon (NZ) (Sacred Falls) in the Gr.2 Hawke’s Bay Guineas (1400m) at Hastings earlier this month.
The son of Darci Brahma will wear side winkers on Saturday and Marsh is welcoming the forecast rain.
“Bourbonaire has done absolutely nothing wrong to date, his runs have been very good,” Marsh said.
“He was beaten by a very good horse at Hastings. We only got caught in the shadows of the post and I do think there is another length in him with a bit of head gear. The addition of side winkers will just sharpen him up a little bit more.
“A bit of sting out of the track is certainly not going to worry him.
“He’s probably really starting to look for a mile now, but 1400m on a Dead to Slow track will be perfect.”
Stable and ownership-mate All Black Bourbon was disappointing last start when finishing eighth at Te Rapa, but Marsh said he will appreciate a rain-affected track on Saturday.
“He won on a wet track first-up,” Marsh said. “He is by Highly Recommended and he just found the track a bit good last start and the race was a bit sharp.
“Up to 1400m will suit and the more rain the better for him. It will be ideal if it keeps coming down.”
Meanwhile, impressive last-start winner Mega Bourbon (NZ) (El Roca) will bypass the Sarten Memorial this weekend through injury.
“Mega Bourbon has slightly tweaked a muscle over his hindquarters, and it’s only minor, but it was enough that we couldn’t gallop him this week so he is on the easy list for a week,” Marsh said.
“He should be back to normal work next week. It’s nothing major, we just didn’t want to risk him.”
Bourbonaire, All Black Bourbon and Mega Bourbon are raced by The Bourbon Lane Stable LLC, led by American investor Dennis Foster.
Marsh is also excited about the prospects of fellow talented three-year-old Atishu (NZ) (Savabeel) who will contest the Gr.3 Waikato Stud Soliloquy Stakes (1400m) on Saturday.
“She is very promising,” Marsh said. “She got beaten by a nose by Miss Aotearoa first-up and then second-up got beaten by a nose in a stakes race a Wanganui.
“She has done nothing wrong to date and it looks a really nice race. She is an up-and-coming filly and the 1400m with a bit of sting out of the track should be perfect for her.”
The Savabeel filly is nominated for both the Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) and Gr.1 Barneswood Farm New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton Park next month and Marsh said her performance this weekend will help dictate what path she takes.
“We are not sure which way to go yet, but we just wanted to keep our options open,” he said.
A stablemate that could join her on the float trip south is in-form four-year-old Osaka (NZ) (Makfi).
The Makfi gelding improved his record to three wins from five starts at Te Rapa earlier this month and another solid performance could result in a tilt at the Gr.2 Coupland’s Bakeries Mile (1600m) at Riccarton next month.
“Osaka is a very promising horse,” Marsh said. “Up to the mile looks ideal and he loves Te Rapa. He could potentially head to the Coupland’s Mile if he won on Saturday.”
Meanwhile, at Riccarton on Saturday Belle Fascino (NZ) (Per Incanto) and Bronte Beach (NZ) (Reliable Man) will be vying to secure a berth in the Coupland’s Mile.
Belle Facino will jump from barrier four in the Coupland’s Bakeries Mile Trial (1400m), while Bronte Beach will contest the Helston & Associates Rating 74 (1800m) after being the third emergency for the Listed Christchurch Casino Spring Classic (2000m).
“Belle Fascino has taken a bit to come up this time in,” Marsh said. “She should be much improved and she will either head to the Coupland’s Mile or the fillies and mares 1400m (Gr.3 Valachi Downs Canterbury Breeders’ Stakes).
“She loves it down there, she is stakes-placed three times and it has been great for her pedigree and she is probably worth a little bit as a broodmare for next season.
“We are stepping Bronte Beach up over a bit of ground to see how she goes. She could then freshen up for the mile. The Coupland’s is a probable target for her.”