Wairarapa trainer Grant Nicholson believes defending champ Nymph Monte (NZ) (Tavistock) is going just as well as he was when he won last year’s South Taranaki Club Egmont Cup (2100m) at Hawera.
The Tavistock eight-year-old gelding is shooting for successive wins in the Egmont Racing Club feature as he continues his buildup to next month’s Gr.3 Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup (3200m) at Riccarton.
“Going into last year’s race we were very confident he would run well and he’s in the same condition as he was last year,” Nicholson said.
Nicholson has followed a similar blueprint to last year’s Egmont Cup win, again producing Nymph Monte for Saturday’s race at his fourth start for the preparation.
The winner of 10 of his 56 starts finished fourth in the Gr.3 Metric Mile (1600m) at Awapuni second-up and finished strongly for third at Hastings last month behind subsequent Gr.1 Livamol Classic (2040m) runner-up Peso (NZ) (Colombia) over 2000m.
“He’s improved again on what he showed at Hastings,” Nicholson said.
“He’s very, very well going into Saturday. I couldn’t be any happier with him. He likes the track – he’s unbeaten at the course and he won the race last year, so we’re going back to where he’s gone well before and hopefully he can do it again for us.”
Safely through the Egmont Cup, Nymph Monte is likely to tackle the Listed Ricoh Feilding Gold Cup (2200m) at Awapuni on November 2 before heading to Riccarton, where he won the Listed Spring Classic (2000m) and Metropolitan Trophy (2500m) then finished fifth in the New Zealand Cup back in 2016.
“He’s grown up a little bit since then, especially mentally as he’s got older,” Nicholson said.
“He’s always had joint issues that we’ve had to deal with right the way through, even as far back as when he was three. They aren’t there at the moment so he couldn’t be in any better order.”
TAB bookmakers opened Nymph Monte as a $3.80 favourite for the Egmont Cup ahead of last year’s Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) runner-up In A Twinkling (Fastnet Rock), who was fourth in the same leadup race at Hastings, at $5.50, with Hi I’m Nikkita (NZ) (He’s Remarkable) a $6 third favourite.
Leah Hemi takes the ride from barrier three, a draw Nicholson wants to take advantage of.
“We’ll try and put him in the race one off the fence and hopefully he can do the job again. On form, he’ll be hard to beat.”