Cambridge juveniles ready for Group One battle


Don Sellwood, now retired from trainer, prepared Anabandana for her successful juvenile season.

Don Sellwood (now retired from training) knew what was needed to win the Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes.

Cambridge has four chances to put the centre back on the Gr. 1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes’ honours board tomorrow.

Stephen Marsh has a strong hand with Nahema and Rocanto, while Margaret and Tim Carter will be represented by the Group One-placed maiden Battle Time and young Cambridge trainer Mark Forbes will have his hopes pinned on another black-type placed maiden, Our Rokki.

The Don Sellwood-trained Anabandana was the last Cambridge horse to win the Awapuni feature, doing so in 2011, and two years earlier Murray Baker prepared The Heckler to take the money. And before that you have to go back to 1986, 29 years ago, for the previous Sires’ winner from the region.

Precocious Lad, prepared by Alan Jones and ridden by Earl Harrison, won the 1986 feature and four years earlier Harrison also won the race on the previous Cambridge winner, the John Thurston trained and part-owned Andretti.

Nahema and Rocanto rate strong chances on their lead-up form. Rocanto has won three of his five starts and was third behind Dal Cielo (from Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman’s barn) in his most recent appearance, the Gr. 1 Haunui Farm Diamond Stakes at Ellerslie, while Nahema won well on debut and backed up quickly with an unlucky second to Serena Miss in the Gr. 2 J. Swap Contractors Matamata Breeders’ Stakes.

Marsh believes the switch back to a left-handed track will be in Rocanto’s favour tomorrow. Rocanto’s only two defeats have been right-handed, at Ellerslie.

“Back left-handed is definitely the key to him,” said Marsh, “and I don’t think the 1400 will worry him.”

Mark Du Plessis will again ride Rocanto, while Danielle Johnson will be reunited with Nahema after Michael McNab had the mount at Matamata.

Unfortunately for Marsh both horses have the two outside draws with Rocanto starting from the extreme outside (13). “The draws are always a huge part, but there’s nothing we can do about it” said Marsh.

Nahema has the makings of an exciting three-year-old and it would be no surprise to see her end her current campaign with a Group One win or placing.

“Nahema is going great and I really like her,” said Marsh. “Both her and Rocanto will go out after this one. They should be lovely three-year-olds.”

Battle Time beat Rocanto home when a brave second to Dal Cielo in the Diamond Stakes and, according to Margaret Carter, he has trained on well.

“He’s got a lovely draw (five) and we’re happy with him,” she said. “He’s the neatest horse to handle. He’s got an absolutely wonderful temperament.”

With Sam Spratt staying with O’Dianne, a new rider had to be found for Battle Time and Rosie Myers has landed the mount. “Rosie is a good rider and we’re happy to get her,” said Carter. “I can’t blame Sam for staying with the other horse. She rides a lot for Stephen (McKee).”

Our Rokki is the least-fancied of the Cambridge quartet but does go into the race with a debut third at New Plymouth and a last-start second to Magic Dancer in the Gr. 3 Phoenix Park 2YO Classic at New Plymouth.