Trials & Tribulations of getting to the NZ 1000 Guineas
I've been lucky enough to have had three runners in the New Zealand 1000 Guineas. As I'm sure every owner will attest to, the pathway to it is no walk in the park!
One of the reasons for that, I believe, is that our three-year-old fillies come out of a typically-tough NZ winter and need to be getting busy on the training track when conditions are far from ideal. Trial tracks are usually rain-affected and it's a balancing act for trainers getting the horses fit enough without flattening them.
Then there's the order-of-entry for the 1000 Guineas to upset your sleeping pattern!
It's not just about Rating Points, the complicated list of how the order is determined makes for a giant jigsaw puzzle, meaning owners & trainers are constantly looking over the fence at what other contenders are doing.
Two of my three runners - both of which were raced by the Challenge No.2 Syndicate and managed by me - had the luxury of meeting the key criteria. Avisto (Tavistock) had won three Stakes Races going into the race and Secret Spirit (Swiss Ace) had won four Stakes Races. So they were always guaranteed a start. The downside with them was that both performed best on rain-affected track conditions. They turned up to Riccarton Park in their respective years to be greeted with flint-hard track conditions.
My other runner was my own & her name was Rachel Rafter (Perfectly Ready). In her year the field dropped right away - which I'm sure won't be the case in 2019 - and she was just one of 8 runners.
This year my interest is as Manager of the Challenge No.10 Syndicate which owns & races the talented Jennifer Eccles (Rip Van Winkle). She was Stakes-placed in the Auckland Futurity Stakes-LR (1400m) at two years and so far this season at three she won (then lost on protest) the Pak 'n Save Fillies 1100m at Hastings, then returned three weeks later for a close-up fourth in the Gold Trial Stakes-Gr.3 (1200m).
Jennifer Eccles fits right into the category of being a horse not guaranteed a start at Riccarton Park. Tomorrow's Second Withdrawal for the race will give us a better feel of where she sits, but when I last looked we were 18th-equal in order of entry.
Accordingly she will go to Ellerslie on Saturday for the $70,000 Barneswood Farm Soliloquy Stakes-Gr.3 (1400m). We're there to try and win the race, obviously, but a one, two or three placing might well secure that NZ 1000 Guineas start.
Jennifer Eccles is in terrific heart. I've seen her in her last two track gallops - Shaune Ritchie and his team are doing an outstanding job with her. Donavan Mansour rides again this weekend.