Allan Sharrock believes seven-time Group One winner Kawi is in the best form of his career leading into Saturday's Gr.1 BCD Group Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa.
The New Plymouth trainer admits he is brimming with confidence ahead of the weight-for-age feature, mainly stemming from Kawi's brilliant finish for second in the Gr.1 Telegraph (1200m) at Trentham last month and the way the Savabeel seven-year-old has bounced through that run.
Kawi was timed to run his last 600m of the Telegraph in 32.33 seconds, 0.76 seconds - or roughly 4 1/2 lengths - faster than winner Enzo's Lad.
"I'm really pleased with him. He's terrific. He's sailed through his last run and his work has been up to his best standard," Sharrock said.
"All those behind him have to come up to his weight on Saturday under weight-for-age. At Trentham, he was giving them all weight. His form is better than anything else. I'm pretty confident going into it."
Sharrock quipped that Kawi's outside barrier draw of nine was in line with him going into the race as the highest-rated runner but dealing with that barrier was now the job of rider Jonathan Riddell.
Riddell will have his 11th raceday ride on Kawi on Saturday, having won on the star galloper on three occasions and placed in a further four.
But the Cambridge jockey has never been aboard in any of Kawi's seven elite-level wins, with Leith Innes (five) and Jason Waddell (two) sharing those triumphs.
"With both Jason and Leith suspended, Michael Walker committed to a Group One ride in Melbourne and Johnathan Parkes bound to Start Wondering, Jonathan was the right option," Sharrock said.
"It often takes a race to get to know him so why take the risk on a new rider. I'd say Jonathan has some unfinished business too. He rode in nine of his first 10 starts - he did all the hard work when he was a shit of a horse. It would be good for him to get his big one."
Sharrock again has his eye on Kawi levelling up to Mufhasa's record of eight Group One wins in New Zealand.
"These Group Ones are never easy to win and next season could be his last season, so we'd love for him to level up," Sharrock said.
"As soon as he tells us he's had enough, we'll pull pin. He's been a great servant and we're not going to send him around for the sake of it.
"But he hasn't been over-raced either. He's racing now, as a seven-year-old, as well as at any stage of his career."
Safely through Saturday's sprint feature, Kawi will tackle the Gr.1 Haunui Farm WFA Classic (1600m) at Otaki on February 24 before Sharrock decides between stepping up to the 2000m of the Gr.1 Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes at Ellerslie on March 10 or dropping back in distance to the 1200m of the Gr.1 Goodwood in Adelaide on May 19.
Kawi dominated betting for the BCD Group Sprint as a $2 favourite with TAB bookmakers, ahead of joint $5.50 second favourites Heroic Valour and Start Wondering. - NZ Racing Desk