Emerging stars add to Te Aroha intrigue
Two of New Zealand’s emerging stars will step out on Saturday’s Te Aroha undercard as they progress toward feature summer targets.
Gold Watch will shoot for his sixth consecutive victory in the Geoff Brindley Memorial (1400m) while Sakura Blossom will defend her unbeaten record in the Piako Rural Services Handicap (1100m).
Prepared by evergreen trainer Cliff Goss, Gold Watch set off on his hot streak after suffering his sole defeat in his three-year-old debut and most recently resumed off an eight-month break to lump 62kg to win at Te Rapa.
“He hit his head on the starting gates when he jumped out and he did well to get out of it with the weight he had,” the 90-year-old Tauranga-based horseman said.
Gold Watch will drop to 54kg when he makes his open class debut on Saturday and with regular rider Jonathan Riddell unable to make the weight, the prized mount on the son of Swiss Ace has gone to Danielle Johnson.
“Danielle will have done her homework and watched his races so she will know all about him,” Goss said.
Gold Watch has been set for the Gr.2 Rich Hill Mile (1600m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day and, while taking nothing for granted, Goss is confident the chestnut can take another winning step toward his target race.
“If anything, the horse has improved because he was a little bit fat first-up. I think he is better now, but there are some good horses in it and Packing Rockstar goes well,” he said. “He has got to give him 6kg though, which is a lot to be giving a horse like our fellow.”
Meanwhile, Cambridge trainer Ben Foote is hoping Sakura Blossom can complete her hat-trick of wins to take a step closer to a crack at the Gr.1 Sistema Railway (1200m) at Ellerslie on January 1.
The Vancouver mare was a debut winner on the synthetic track at Cambridge in September and made her next appearance during the Hawke’s Bay spring carnival. She blew the start there before producing a powerhouse finish from last to win comfortably.
Sakura Blossom was subsequently side-lined by a foot abscess and warmed up for her return with a quiet trial at Taupo earlier this month.
“Obviously, it’s another step up for her, but she has got a ton of ability. She’s not the soundest of horses so I have to be careful how I manage her,” Foote said.
“I don’t know how long I will have her sound and the Railway might be a bit of a longshot so she would have to win comfortably on Saturday, but put it this way – she can gallop with Babylon Berlin quite easily.”
Babylon Berlin is locked in for the Railway and successfully opened her campaign in the Listed Pegasus Stakes (1000m) at Riccarton before she ran third behind Levante in the Listed Counties Bowl at Te Rapa.
“The trip to Christchurch might have taken the edge off her a bit and I’m reasonably confident she can turn the tables in the Railway,” Foote said.