Southland trainer Lisa Vaughan is on the hunt this season to secure an elusive stakes victory with seven-year-old mare Shirley Maude.
The daughter of Fully Fledged placed in the Listed Champagne Stakes (1200m) at just her second career start and finished runner-up in the Gr.3 White Robe Lodge Weight For Age (1600m) in February, and Vaughan would dearly love to go one better this season.
“Each year she has just gone from strength-to-strength, we have been really lucky with her,” Vaughan said. “Hopefully this season she will be in form too.”
Vaughan, who shares in the ownership of the mare with her husband, former All Black Simon Culhane, her father Ray Vaughan, and Japan Rugby Coach Jamie Joseph, is looking forward to kicking off Shirley Maude’s preparation at Wingatui on Friday in the Busy Bee Cleaning Services (1200m).
“She is going well, her training has been good,” Vaughan said. “It is first-up so she will probably need it as she is a wee bit older now.”
Shirley Maude will jump from barrier three with last season’s leading apprentice jockey Kozzi Asano onboard and will carry 60.5kg with Asano’s one kilogram claim.
“She is a big mare so she will handle the weight,” Vaughan said. “My only concern is the track conditions, but the weather has been pretty good in Dunedin this week, so hopefully it is not too bad.
“We have got Kozzi on, so we get the one kilo off, and the way he has been riding he is going to be an advantage as well.”
Vaughan has yet to map out any major plans for her mare, but the Te Anau trainer is eyeing a trip north to Christchurch for New Zealand Cup week.
“We will just space her races and see how we go,” she said. “Ultimately the target will be Cup week and then we will see where we go from there.”
Vaughan will also line-up Listed Southland Guineas (1600m) placegetter Asathought on Friday in the Busy Bee Cleaning Services Maiden (1600m).
“She is stronger again,” Vaughan said. “She has done well over the COVID lockdown. She has strengthened up and time is going to be her best friend.
“Having done a lot of beach training she has had a lot of miles under her belt. I am pretty happy with her.
“She has got lots of natural ability and she is just still a wee bit green. She is just a big mare that is growing.”
As with Shirley Maude, Vaughan’s biggest concern with Asathought is the track conditions, which were rated a Slow7 on Wednesday morning.
“First-up over a mile, I will be a bit reluctant if the track is super heavy,” she said.
Vaughan said she will play it by ear with Asathought’s spring campaign.
“We will just take her through the grades and see how she goes. She is going to be a good stayer, but she will tell us in time,” Vaughan said.
The duo makeup Vaughan’s entire racing team at the moment and she said they are a good break from her G.J. Gardner Homes franchise she owns with her husband.
“We have only got those two at the moment,” she said. “We had a few young ones in, but the tracks are quite wet down here so we have just turned them out again.
“We are really busy with the business at the moment. Quite a bit is going on after the lockdown period and things have bottlenecked a bit, but it’s going well.”