Cambridge trainer Stephen Marsh stepped out three of his stable stars at the Avondale trials on Tuesday and he is excited for the spring ahead with the trio.
Marsh was particularly pleased with the way Group One performer Vernanme trialled on Tuesday, winning his 1000m heat in impressive style when finding clear room late.
“He is coming up really well this time,” Marsh said. “He has matured a lot, he has strengthened. I think the writing is on the wall that he is in for a pretty good season.
“He has always shown us heaps, he was Group One placed last time in and we thought he was a real Derby chance, but I think the (New Zealand) Derby (Gr.1, 2400m) just came up a bit too soon for him.
“He has always had the makings of a good horse and I think we will reap the benefits now.”
Marsh is eyeing the last two legs of the Bostock New Zealand Hawke’s Bay Spring Carnival with the son of O’Reilly and is weighing up a trip across the Tasman, having made an early nomination for the Gr.1 Cox Plate (2040m).
“He will kick off on the 31st (of August) up at Ruakaka in a rating 82 1400m,” Marsh said.
“He’s a chance of running in the last two legs of Hastings. We will just work that out or we could get him to Australia at some stage.”
Last season’s New Zealand Derby hero Crown Prosecutor is another stable runner who is being set to cross the Tasman after finishing fourth in his 1000m heat.
“He just didn’t seem to cop the track (Heavy11), but he was only having a quiet trial, and that’s what he did,” Marsh said. “Craig (Grylls, jockey) didn’t do much on him at all and he just tired in the ground the last little bit.”
The son of Medaglia d’Oro is one of 14 horses Marsh has based at Ruakaka over winter and he has elected to kick-off Crown Prosecutor’s season at the Northland track later this month after originally intending to trial him at Te Teko.
“We are setting our sights towards Australia with Crown Prosecutor,” Marsh said.
“We were originally going to trial him over 1200m at Te Teko later in the month, but we just decided we would keep him up at Ruakaka at the moment.
“He will just race in an Open 1200m on the 31st (of August). It is going to be short of his best obviously, but instead of going all the way to Te Teko, we can just use that as a bit of trial and he hasn’t had the long travel.
“If he goes well there we will get him on a plane straight to Australia. The Caulfield Cup (Gr.1, 2400m) is his main aim, but we will just let him work through towards that and if he doesn’t look like he is a realistic chance there are plenty of other races we can set him for.”
Last season’s Listed Wellesley Stakes (1000m) winner Exuberant is another stable runner that has joined Marsh’s satellite barn in Ruakaka after his 800m trial at Avondale.
Marsh was less pleased with the way Exuberant trialled on Tuesday, but said he is on track to head towards his first stakes engagement of the season next month.
“He was very fresh and did a lot wrong,” he said. “He has gone straight from there to Ruakaka where he will be based and he will race at the end of the month in a three-year-old 1000m and then he will stay up for the Northland Breeders’ Stakes (Gr.3, 1200m).”
Marsh has been pleased with his satellite barn at Ruakaka and believes the stable will start reaping the rewards from that base heading into spring.
“I think it has worked really well,” he said. “We have had a pretty mild winter, but the last two weeks have been very wet around Cambridge and the Waikato region, so I think it is around now where we are going to get the real benefits.
“They look really good, it’s a little bit warmer up there and it has certainly served its purpose, that’s for sure.”
Meanwhile, Marsh will line-up five runners at Te Rapa on Saturday, including stakes winner Bobby Dazzler who will contest the Foster Maintain 1400.
The son of Zed won well at New Plymouth two starts back and Marsh thinks he didn’t appreciate backing up seven days later when running third over 1400m at Rotorua.
“The one week back-up on a very heavy track at Rotorua probably might have been one step too far, but we have just given him a little freshen here and he’ll head back to Te Rapa.
“Te Rapa and the 1400m should suit him well. He looks a realistic chance.”