Lisa Latta will have a far better idea about her Classic chances after three-year-old racing at Te Rapa on Saturday.
The Palmerston North trainer has Lincoln Falls and Lincoln Sky contesting the Gr.2 Warren Storm Lifebrokers Waikato Guineas (2000m), while her talented fillies Secret Allure and Sentimental Miss will tackle the Gr.2 Cambridge Stud Sir Tristram Fillies Classic (2000m).
Lincoln Falls will race in blinkers for the first time but faces an awkward draw of barrier 11 in his first start past 1600m.
"Johnathan [Parkes, jockey] has felt he's needed them for the last couple of starts but I'm just hoping that from that draw he doesn't get too keen in them," Latta said.
"He's a horse with a lot of raw ability and I'm hoping for a truly-run race so he gets his best opportunity."
Dundeel colt Lincoln Falls has won two of his five starts and impressed with a fourth placing in the Listed Uncle Remus Stakes (1400m) at Ellerslie on Boxing Day and a stout-finishing fifth in the Gr.1 Levin Classic (1600m) at Trentham last month.
Currently an equal fifth favourite at $14 for the Gr.1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie on March 2, Lincoln Falls is a $5 second favourite for the Waikato Guineas behind The Chosen One at $4.
Latta also has Sir Nate ($26) and Platinum Invador ($31) in Derby contention, that pair set to contest Saturday week's Gr.2 $100,000 Avondale Guineas (2100m), while Lincoln Sky could yet earn a late entry with a bold run in the Waikato Guineas.
"He's pretty genuine, a pretty laid-back dude," Latta said of the Savabeel gelding.
"It's always hard for three-year-olds coming through. He's been racing against the older horses and been a quiet achiever. He's not nominated for the Derby and he hasn't been the other way around yet. He's got time on his side and there are other Derbys coming up [in Australia]."
A last-start Trentham Rating 65 runner-up, Lincoln Sky is a $17 chance for the Waikato Guineas.
Latta has a strong hand in the Sir Tristram Fillies Classic through last-start Gr.3 Desert Gold Stakes (1600m) winner Secret Allure and Group Three-placed Sentimental Miss.
"They are both going really well. Secret Allure has come through the Desert Gold really well and I couldn't be happier with her," Latta said.
"It was a very good ride by Leith [Innes] that day but she's a very good filly too, she’s genuine."
With Innes suspended for Saturday, Jonathan Riddell regains the mount on Zacinto filly Secret Allure, whom he guided to second place in the Gr.2 Royal Stakes (2000m) at Ellerslie on January 1.
From barrier two, Latta was hoping for an economical run.
"She can get up and travel a bit but she's got a draw to not get right back but we won't want her too handy either."
Reliable Man filly Sentimental Miss has drawn wide in barrier 11 but Latta said the step up to 2000m was what she needed.
"She's looking for more ground now. She went into the Desert Gold fresh which was a big ask but she still made up really good ground. The draw will make it difficult but she's crying out for 2000m now."
Queen Of Diamonds heads the TAB's Sir Tristram Fillies Classic market at $3.80 ahead of Secret Allure and Imelda Mary at $4.80, with Sentimental Miss at $21.
Latta said both fillies would tackle the Gr.2 Little Avondale Stud Lowland Stakes (2100m) at Hastings on February 27 as their leadup to the Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld New Zealand Oaks (2400m) at Trentham on March 16. - NZ Racing Desk