Fresh from winning with all of his three runners at Flemington on Saturday, Mike Moroney has shifted his focus to New Zealand. The trans-Tasman trainer flew over from Melbourne on Sunday, with Christmas and Ellerslie’s Boxing Day races on the agenda.
Moroney and co-trainer Pam Gerard will be represented by Pinmedown in the Group 1 Cambridge Stud Zabeel Classic (2000m), Harlech in the Listed Shaw’s Wire Ropes Uncle Remus Stakes (1400m), and two-year-olds Dragon Queen and Targhee in the Stella Artois (1100m).
Moroney is particularly looking forward to the resuming run of Harlech, who produced a big finish for a close second to Catalyst in the Group 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) in his last start in early November. He had previously won the Group 2 James & Annie Sarten Memorial (1400m). “He’s a very talented horse and we’ve always had a pretty big opinion of him,” Moroney said. “He ran into a good one down in Christchurch, but we think there’s still room for him to improve out of that.
“At this stage, this race is a lead-up to the Levin Classic (Group 1, 1600m) in Wellington next month. Being a colt, getting a Group 1 win is the first priority with him. “If he came through that really well, we could also look at the million-dollar Karaka Million race at Ellerslie, and there’s also a strong possibility that he’ll end up in Australia a bit further down the track. But we haven’t made any firm plans beyond the Levin Classic at this stage.”
Pinmedown, who won the Group 2 Eight Carat Classic (1600m) at this meeting last year, heads into the Zabeel Classic with an improving formline. Her most recent run was a fast-finishing third in the Group 2 Cal Isuzu Stakes (1600m). “She might have gone even closer last time if she’d run straight,” Moroney said. “I don’t think she’s quite as tractable left-handed – she’s better suited on right-handed tracks. “The signs seem to be that she’s coming back into her best form, which is really good to see.”
Moroney also has a lot of time for the two-year-old fillies Dragon Queen and Targhee, although a wide draw of 13 makes the latter a doubtful starter on Thursday. “I think they’re both very smart fillies, and neither of them have had a lot of luck in their races so far,” Moroney said. “With Targhee drawing so wide in this race, it’s possible we may save her for the Group 3 race (Eclipse Stakes, 1200m) on New Year’s Day.”
Dragon Queen and Targhee both lined up at Ellerslie on November 30, finishing third and fourth as Taroni was first past the post but relegated to second behind Bordeaux Le Rouge. Both fillies were affected by Taroni’s waywardness in the straight.