Trainer Matthew Pitman described Elfee's barrier draw of 22 for Saturday's Gr.3 Winning Edge Presentations Winter Cup (1600m) as a "kick in the guts" but said the race is far from a lost cause.
Pitman, who trains at Riccarton in partnership with his father Michael, said it was now ace jockey Chris Johnson's job to ensure the wide draw wasn't terminal to seven-year-old Iffraaj mare Elfee's chances.
"Being drawn one from the outside isn't ideal but she's a versatile mare working as well as we could hope. We're confident with the horse and we've got the right man on board to overcome that draw," Pitman said.
Raced by Faye Torrance, Elfee has won eight of her 35 starts, most recently claiming the Oamaru Cup (1600m) to set up the prospect of her landing a $25,000 bonus for any horse that wins the Oamaru and Winter Cups double.
"Her work leading in to Oamaru was as good as it's ever been but she still showed a touch of class the way she won, which we've always known she had," Pitman said.
"We'd set the Winter Cup as her target and she's coming right at the right time. She ran second in a Group Three (South Island Thoroughbred Breeders Stakes at Riccarton) last season and she's always competed well at the top level.
"She's only once not earned a cheque for us and she's just getting better and better. She showed real brilliance last start."
TAB bookmakers have Elfee as an $8 fourth favourite for the Winter Cup behind Red Sierra at $5.50 and Dez and She's Poppy at $6.
"With the right run, she'll be right in it. Her form stacks up with the best of the South Island horses and she finished just behind Nashville at her last start at Riccarton," Pitman said.
"She loves Riccarton and it's just that bad draw that's against us and that could yet play into our hands. There is some rain forecast and in past years, you get to the end of the day and the outside fence can be the place to be.”
The Pitman stable will be out in force over National week at Riccarton with Matthew Pitman suggesting that the stable was likely to end up with between 30 and 40 runners.
"We've got 13 on the first day and we'll probably have 10 on the middle day. We'll probably go close to a dozen each day," he said.
"In the past, we haven't had the numbers coming into National week like we do for Cup week but we've been building up a quality team and this is probably as big a team as we've had for a while."
Pitman said the stable had a good opinion of Highly Recommended four-year-old Jamie, who contests the Chanui Premier 1200 on Saturday, with Saronic Miss a worthy rival in the same race, while Sabre was one to watch next Wednesday. - NZ Racing Desk