Last season’s New Zealand Bloodstock Southern Filly of the Year Emily Margaret will kick-off her season in the gavelhouse.com Open Handicap (1000m) at Riccarton on Saturday.
The Kevin and Pam Hughes-trained mare won four of her 11 starts last term, including the Listed Canterbury Belle Stakes (1200m), Listed NZB Insurance Stakes (1400m), and Gr.2 Wellington Guineas (1400m).
“I was very pleased with her last season,” Kevin Hughes said. “She was very brave and getting that Group Two was the icing on the cake. To win Filly of the Year down here too was great. She did very well.”
While her Group Two victory at Trentham was a highlight in her three-year-old season, Hughes is eyeing a return to the Upper Hutt track with Emily Margaret to target the Gr.1 JR & N Telegraph (1200m) in January.
She will commence her preparation towards that goal at her home track this weekend and Hughes is pleased with her heading into the 1400m event fresh-up.
“I couldn’t be happier with her,” he said. “She has done everything right and you have got to start somewhere.
“Unfortunately it is getting wetter and wetter, it’s a shocking day here today (Friday). The track will get a lot heavier by the look of it.
“It would have been nice to get a better track (rated a Heavy10 on Friday), but it won’t worry her. But you’re in a straight line and the rail is out 11 metres, so it may be a wee bit better out there.”
Hughes has elected to utilise stable apprentice Sanu Toolooa’s three kilogram allowance and is confident in his abilities, particularly with his close association with the mare.
“She will go around with 51kg on her now, that will make a bit of a difference,” Hughes said.
“He rides her every day. He knows her well and will do a good job.”
Trainers Kevin and Pam Hughes with Emily Margaret.
Hughes believes 1400m is Emily Margaret’s pet distance, but has settled on the Gr.3 Lindauer Stewards Stakes Handicap (1200m) as her major target of the spring.
“She is a grand 1400m horse, but there just aren’t the 1400m races around for her,” he said.
“We are just trying to keep her fresh for 1200m. If we have got to go to 1400m then we will just have to change our plans.
“We can then freshen her up after the Stewards and get her ready for the Telegraph.”
Hughes will also line-up three other runner at Riccarton on Saturday, including his next potential star filly Papagena.
The three-year-old daughter of Tavistock will jump from barrier nine in the NZ Bloodstock Three-Year-Old (1000m) after winning over on debut on a Heavy11 track at Riccarton last month.
“I was pleased with her, it was a big effort to go 1200m in those conditions, virtually with just a trial under her belt,” Hughes said. “She didn’t do much last season because she was a late foal.
“She is really bred to go over a mile and maybe the Oaks distance (2400m).”
Hughes has freshened Papagena since her last-start and is eyeing the same spring path taken by Emily Margaret last year.
“I just tried to freshen her up for the 1000m tomorrow and hopefully it works,” he said. “The rain will probably help her. She has trained on well, I am very happy with her.
“She is on a 1000 Guineas (Gr.1, 1600m) path. She will head to the Canterbury Belle (Listed, 1200m) and then follow the three-year-old’s through.”
Although Hughes believes Papagena will be suited over more ground, he is expecting a bold showing from the filly on Saturday.
“I think she might surprise,” he said. “If it was 1200m I would give her a good chance of winning, but 1000m, if she ran a nice place I would be thrilled with her.”