The opening Group 1 event of the season is shaping as an enthralling contest with a pair of top-class four-year-olds promising to be major players in Saturday’s Westbury Stud-sponsored Tarzino Trophy.
All eyes will focus on Hastings where the Karaka nursery continues its lengthy association with Hawke’s Bay Racing Inc and the El Roca – Sir Colin Meads Trophy has also attracted a top-notch field of three-year-olds.
Glamour mare Imperatriz will run a short-priced favourite in the Tarzino following her victory romp in the G2 Foxbridge Plate to remain unbeaten this preparation while fresh runner La Crique resumes after a multiple Group-winning three-year-old campaign.
The Mark Walker-trained Imperatriz will again be partnered by champion jockey Opie Bosson, who noticed a significant change in the mare’s demeanour at Te Rapa last time out.
“She really impressed me, right from the moment I got on her back she was on the job,” he said.
“Going down the start I thought far out, you’re a different horse than the one at Ruakaka, and she just came out and brained them.”
As is so often the case, Bosson looks sure to be at the sharp end of the feature race action and has designs on a Westbury-backed double with Imperatriz and stablemate Dynastic, last season’s Karaka Million winner, in the age-group feature.
While the Hastings race named in honour of Westbury resident Tarzino takes centre stage on the domestic front, the stallion’s son Cadazio will be out to make further headlines in the Listed Exford Plate at Flemington.
The farm graduate was an impressive debut winner at Geelong in his only two-year-old outing and a performance of such quality that established him as the current co-favourite for the G1 VRC Derby, a race his Mick Price-trained father claimed in 2015.
Cadazio is prepared by Price and Michael Kent Jnr, whose love affair with the progeny of Tarzino is well-documented following the G1 South Australian Derby heroics of the now Hong Kong-based Jungle Magnate.
It also gained further midweek momentum on the Hillside track at Sandown where another of their Derby hopes in Artzino followed up a debut second at Pakenham with a stirring performance to open his winning account.
He has now joined stablemate Cadazio on the front line of betting for the classic, earning a A$11 quote from tab.com.au.
Artzino was tardily out of the gates before rider Mark Zahra urged him around runners and the gelding produced a sustained finish to score over 1500 metres.
“He’s got to get out better from the barriers as he did that on debut and I thought it was almost impossible to win from where he was when the leader kicked away,” Kent Jnr said.
“It was a really big effort to sustain such a long sprint.
“We’ve just got to time our run right toward the Derby and a race like the Super Impose Stakes at Flemington might suit him, it’s very exciting.”
Meanwhile, Ruakaka will be the scene of the three-year-old debut of Redwood’s exciting son Sharp ‘N’ Smart, who will step out over 1400 metres ahead of a return trip across the Tasman.
He is trained by Graeme and Debbie Rogerson for an ownership group that includes breeder Gerry Harvey and Australian plans will be locked in after the weekend.
“He is coming up really well and we will make our minds up after Whangarei whether he goes to Sydney or Melbourne,” Graeme Rogerson said.
The Spring Champion Stakes, the Caulfield Guineas, the VRC Derby and the Cox Plate are all Group 1 features in the mix for Sharp ‘N’ Smart.
“He is right where I want him to be at this stage, I couldn’t be happier with him,” Rogerson said.
Last season, Sharp ‘N’ Smart finished a luckless second on debut at Ruakaka before he won the Listed Champagne Stakes at Pukekohe to book a trip to Queensland.
He was narrowly beaten when runner-up in the Listed The Phoenix and returned to Eagle Farm to finish fourth and less than a length off the winner in the G1 JJ Atkins.