Stable rolling out the big race candidates

Rollout The Carpet and Mark du Plessis after winning the Gr. 1 NZB 1000 Guineas. (Photo: NZ Racing Desk).

Rollout The Carpet and Mark du Plessis after winning the Gr. 1 NZB 1000 Guineas. (Photo: NZ Racing Desk).

The Group One combination of Rollout The Carpet and Mark Du Plessis will be reunited in the NRM Sprint at Te Rapa on Saturday.

Rollout The Carpet was winner of the Gr. 2 J. Swap Contractors Matamata Breeders’ Stakes when ridden by Matt Cameron, but it was Du Plessis aboard when she recorded her most important triumph, in the Gr. 1 NZ Bloodstock 1000 Guineas at Riccarton in November 2012.

Du Plessis had also been runner-up on Rollout The Carpet in her two lead-up races, the Gr. 3 Gold Trail Stakes at Hastings and the Gr. 3 James and Annie Sarten Memorial Stakes at Te Rapa. However, Du Plessis has been aboard the Cambridge mare on just four raceday occasions since the Group One win, including a second at Te Aroha in April last year.

Rollout The Carpet hasn’t won since the Riccarton celebration, though she did pick up further valuable Group One print when third behind the Du Plessis-ridden Albany Reunion in last year’s Manco Easter Handicap at Ellerslie.

The Holy Roman Emperor five-year-old mare has been given two starts this campaign by trainers Jeff McVean and Emma-Lee Browne and ran the race of an improver second-up when third to Shelford and Flower Bomb over 1200 metres at Ellerslie last month.

It’s a big step from a lower-key open race to the $200,000 Gr. 1 NRM Sprint, but her connections are happy with her preparation and are hoping to have back-to-back Group One attacks with the Haunui Farm WFA Classic at Otaki on February 21 the next target.

The McVean – Browne stable is also buzzing with excitement over other major race prospects as Stratocaster heads towards the Gr. 1 TV3 NZ Derby (the race the team won with Leica Guv in 2001), Blizzard progresses on for the Gr. 1 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup and the promising two-year-old Gotham takes steps towards Group One targets.

Stratocaster and Blizzard will be using the Ellerslie meeting on Saturday week to further their preparations with Stratocaster stepping up to a staying test for the first time in the Gr. 2 $100,000 Avondale Guineas and Blizzard competing in the Gr. 2 $100,000 Go Racing Syndications Avondale Gold Cup.

Stratocaster showed his class earlier in the season when beating Turn Me Loose in the Hawke’s Bay Guineas Prelude. He then finished fourth in both the Gr. 2 Hawke’s Bay Guineas and Gr. 3 James And Annie Sarten Memorial before his fifth in the Gr. 1 Sothys NZ 2000 Guineas.

Freshened after his trip south, he has had two starts this campaign and pleased his connections with his second-up effort for third behind Derby favourite Volkstok’n’barrell in the Karaka 3YO Mile.

“He lost a shoe in the race,” said Browne. “As long as he goes well (in the Avondale Guineas) he will run in the Derby.”

Blizzard also performed well on Karaka Million night, finishing second to Candle In The Wind in the Karaka Stayers Cup (2200m), his first start since his fourth to Mungo Jerry in the Gr. 2 Christchurch Casino NZ Cup.

“He went super and just blew out the last bit, but it was a while between runs so that was to be expected,” said Browne, who suggested the Avondale Cup would top him off for the Auckland Cup.

Gotham competed in the Karaka Million and his run for fifth, two and a quarter lengths from the winner, Hardline, was one of the runs of the race. He came from the rear group and had to switch ground in the home straight whereas the first two finishers, Hardline and Selfie, both got dream runs through the field after being back with him on straightening for the run home.

Hugh Bowman rode Gotham at Ellerslie and was high in his praise for the son of Onemorenomore who had also produced an eye-catching run the previous start when second to Dal Cielo at Ellerslie on Boxing Day.

Gotham gives every indication he will be suited by the 1400 metres of the Gr. 1 $275,000 Courtesy Ford Manawatu Sires Produce Stakes at Awapuni on March 28. Three weeks beforehand there is the Gr. 1 $200,000 Haunui Farm Diamond Stakes (1200m) at Ellerslie to consider.