The strength of trainer Stephen Marsh's hand in the Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand Oaks (2400m) will become clearer after his promising fillies Insight and Mark Two step out in Saturday's Gr.2 Cambridge Stud Sir Tristram Fillies Classic (2000m) at Te Rapa.
Marsh has a high opinion of both fillies and is looking forward to Saturday's feature as his pair build to the Oaks (2400m) at Trentham on March 17.
With maiden filly Mark Two drawing the outside barrier of 12, Marsh believes Insight gives him his strongest winning chance on Saturday after she only got clear late in the Gr.3 Desert Gold Stakes (1600m) at Trentham last start and finished sixth.
"Her two runs this time in have been very good," he said.
"She didn't get a lot of luck last start and she probably should have finished a lot closer. The step up to 2000m is perfect for her now and she's drawn three so she should get a lovely run from there.
"She's worked well leading into this race and this should top her off nicely for the Oaks. We're expecting a nice run from her."
Marsh has yet to decide whether Insight or Mark Two will have another start in between the Sir Tristram Fillies Classic and the Oaks.
"We'll just see how they both come through and assess it from there. Mark Two might need another run to get into the field but they could quite possibly go straight into the Oaks from here."
Mark Two hit the line strongly from well back for fourth in the Gr.2 Royal Stakes (2000m) at Ellerslie on New Year's Day.
Marsh indicated a change of tactics was unlikely from the wide draw.
"She hit the line nicely on a track that didn't really suit her but unfortunately she's drawn wide and that will mean we ride her quietly from the gates," he said.
"There won't be many hitting the line as well as her though. She'll need luck but she should be doing her best work late and this will be a nice stepping stone to the Oaks for her."
TAB bookmakers have marked the Marsh pair as $23 outsiders for Saturday and $31 for the Oaks.
Marsh's only other runner at Te Rapa on Saturday is progressive stayer Felaar in the Edge 97.8FM 2100.
"He's a promising stayer and should go through the grades. He's drawn average so he'll have to go back and find a position but he's potentially a very good horse in the making." - NZ Racing Desk