Wayne Hillis has regrouped his main players after the New Zealand Cup meeting and is preparing to target further major races over the next few months.
Livin’ On A Prayer, Watch This Space, Bit Lippy and Imelda Mary all raced at the three-day New Zealand Cup meeting and are being readied for Group One assignments.
“They’ve all been freshened up since Riccarton and have done well,” the Matamata trainer said.
“Though they didn’t win down there they all went pretty well.”
Livin’ On A Prayer, co-bred and part-owned by Hillis, will be the first of the quartet to be put to a Group One test this summer.
The Redwood five-year-old is being set for the Gr.1 Sistema Railway (1200m) at Ellerslie on January 1 and the Gr.1 J.R. & N. Berkett Telegraph (1200m) at Trentham 18 days later.
Livin’ On A Prayer headed to Riccarton with a last-start second in the Gr.3 Taranaki Breeders’ Stakes (1400m) at Hawera and was second to Casaquinman in the Listed Pegasus Stakes (1000m) on the first day, but failed to flatter in her main mission, the Gr.2 Coupland’s Bakeries Mile (1600m).
“I stuffed up,” Hillis said. “She had a jumpout here before she went down and I thought she might need a run so I lined her up the first day.
“She shouldn’t have run in the Pegasus. It took the edge off her for the Coupland’s Mile.”
A daughter of Group One winner It’s My Sin, Livin’ On A Prayer has won up to 1500m and Hillis has no qualms about her shaping up in the Railway.
“She’s got a good record over 1200m,” he said.
“She’s had six starts over the distance for three wins and two seconds and she’s gone 1:9 a couple of times.”
Watch This Space also contested the Coupland’s Bakeries Mile and finished fifth behind Te Akau Shark in the hands of Michael Coleman.
“He went a good race, but Mickey said in hindsight when he was outside the leader he probably should have let him roll,” Hillis said.
“The year before when he ran fourth in it he was left in front and I was worried that would happen again.”
A Group Two winner of nine races, Watch This Space will be attempting to go one better in the Gr.1 Thorndon Mile (1600m) next month after finishing second to Stolen Dance last year.
“He’ll kick off at Te Rapa on Saturday in the 1400m open sprint (Gr.3 J. Swap Contractors Sprint),” Hillis said. “He’ll then go for the Rich Hill Mile at Ellerslie before the Thorndon.”
Bit Lippy’s main mission is the Gr.1 Levin Classic (1600m) at Trentham on January 12.
“He’ll run at Ellerslie on Boxing Day in a three-year-old 1400m then go to the Levin Classic,” Hillis said.
Bit Lippy, a Group Three-winning son of Showcasing, was sixth in the Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton after finishing fifth in the Gr.2 James and Annie Sarten Memorial (1400m).
“He was hampered around the corner in the 2000 Guineas and without that interference he would have been closer at the finish,” Hillis said.
Imelda Mary’s Riccarton trip resulted in a fifth to Media Sensation in the Gr.1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m).
“I was rapt in her run,” he said. “It’s hard to believe she’s still a maiden.
“She’ll run here at Matamata next start over 1600m and hopefully she won’t be a maiden after that.”
Imelda Mary’s next black-type mission will be the Gr.2 Stella Artois Royal Stakes (2000m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day.
“She’s always looked like she needs ground and the Royal Stakes should be a good race for her,” Hillis said. “If she goes well in it we’ll press on for the Oaks.”