Favouritism for next months Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton could be decided at Te Rapa on Monday afternoon when several of the leading contenders clash in the Gr.2 James & Annie Sarten Memorial Stakes (1400m).
TAB bookmakers have installed impressive Hawke’s Bay Guineas winner Madison County as a $2.80 Fixed Odds favourite for the 2000 Guineas with the Wayne Hillis trained Bit Lippy on the second line of betting at $6.
The pair will clash for the first time at Te Rapa with Hillis expecting his charge to be right in the firing line as he rounds off his preparation for the trip south to Riccarton.
“He’s well and all good for tomorrow,” he said.
“This will be his last run before the Guineas so we are expecting him to acquit himself well as he has been very consistent in all his starts so far.
“It’s a nice field he’s up against with Madison County looking pretty hard to beat so it will be a good measure of where we are at.”
Hillis is pleased with how his charge came through his first-up effort for the season when winning stylishly over 1200m at Avondale in late September.
“He didn’t grow much over the winter but he is a pretty nuggety little fellow,” he said.
“He did the job at Avondale and came through the run well.
“He’s got a good barrier draw in the Sarten so I’d expect to see him forward in running. He’s very tractable and can take a position in his races.
“He also handles most track conditions so I’m not worried about what we will strike there.”
The field for the Te Rapa event has eight of the runners holding nominations for the 2000 Guineas including last season’s Gr.1 Sistema Stakes (1200m) winner Sword Of Osman along with Listed Wanganui Guineas (1340m) runner-up Notabadidea.
The sole filly in the event is the Stephen Marsh trained Rip Em Up who finished second to Bit Lippy at Avondale and looms as a major contender for the Gr.1 Gavelhouse.com New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton on November 17. – NZ Racing Desk