Summer is a great time for holiday reading.
There’s the form book, the Karaka yearling sales catalogue and there are plenty of books open with the TAB for today’s first day of the Wellington Cup carnival.
But getting a good read on the group one feature, the Fusion Electrical Levin Classic (1600m), isn’t easy.
The three-year-old feature sees the return of comprehensive group one 2000 Guineas winner Madison County, who has opened a short favourite to make it successive wins at racing’s elite level.
That he goes straight to 1600m in his first race since the second week of November when he had his first 1600m start makes him a touch vulnerable in his leadup to the $1 million Karaka Million 3yo Classic (1600m) at Ellerslie in a fortnight’s time.
But that’s countered by his conditioners – Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman are the best in the country and aren’t known for leaving a horse one gallop short.
Hypnos couldn’t have been much more impressive in his listed Uncle Remus Stakes (1400m) win at Ellerslie on Boxing Day.
He had run well for third in the group three Bonecrusher Stakes (1400m) at Ellerslie earlier in the month and looks to be a three-year-old on his way up.
He has recent racing on his side and goes into the feature hard-fit, with Cambridge trainer Roger James describing the Levin Classic as Hypnos’ Melbourne Cup.
James, these days training in partnership with Robert Wellwood, built his reputation as a quality trainer by peaking horses for their target races.
Lincoln Falls closed nicely behind Hypnos in the Uncle Remus but not with the same zip as the winner first time right-handed.
Back to left-handed Trentham where he was a dominant winner two back, he will surely be more potent, though the outside barrier won’t make it easy for crack rider Johnathan Parkes.
Cantstopthefeeling looks an interesting prospect. He chased Hypnos home in the Bonecrusher Stakes after a tough run wide and stuck well for second in the group two Auckland Guineas (1600m) after leading. His tactical speed is a big asset for this.
More Wonder closed strongly late from further back after getting held up in Auckland traffic at rush hour before the race and he holds the honour of being the only runner in the race to have beaten home Madison County.
That was as a two-year-old, though he ran home strongly for fifth to Madison County in an almost identical last 600m split in the 2000 Guineas and he’s then gone on to two comfortable wins, one over Xpression, the favourite for the 1000 Guineas when the fillies were widely speculated as better than their male peers.
Of the others, Crown Prosecutor brings a last-start group three Wellington Stakes (1600m) win from Otaki but that was very much the result of a savvy Jason Waddell ride taking advantage of the pattern favouring leaders at Otaki that day. Having Waddell aboard again helps.
Arrogant produced good splits in the Auckland Guineas but needs to turn the tables on More Wonder and Cantstopthefeeling, while Vernanme did the same in the Uncle Remus but needs to overcome Hypnos and Lincoln Falls out of that race.
Espresso Martini beat Crown Prosecutor four starts back on her way to winning the listed Trevor Eagle Memorial (1500m) at Ellerslie. Her mum Keepa Cruisin won this race in 2007 and success here would complete a rare mother-daughter double in a group one race.
On a tough punting weekend, the two-year-old races at Trentham and Ellerslie tomorrow are interesting.
The Fugitive looks tough in race one at Trentham, while Te Akau candidates Probabeel and Yourdeel look strong chances in the fourth at Ellerslie.
Consider Dolcetto at an attractive price in race eight at Trentham and Jessiegee as an eachway prospect up against Portland Jimmy in race nine.
The Sword Of Osman-The Chosen One clash is a great way to kick off the Sunday programme at Ellerslie, where Dawn Patrol looks a home run in race six.