Karaka trainer Lance Noble will take two strong Group One chances to Ellerslie on Saturday and he is hoping they can improve off their last-start runs at Matamata last month.
Stakes-winning filly Bavella will contest the Gr.1 Sistema Stakes (1200m) in the colours of Cambridge Stud principals Brendan and Jo Lindsay, who previously owned Sistema Plastics.
The daughter of Snitzel was previously unbeaten heading into the Gr.2 Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (1200m) last month and Noble cited a tardy beginning as a contributing factor to her unplaced finish.
“Nothing went right for her,” he said. “She hadn’t had a run for three months, so she was a little bit fresh.
“She caught the gates at the wrong time, half a stride slow, and as she jumped out the outside horse and the inside horse sort of wiped her out.
“We got further back than we intended and from there the race was really over the way it was run.
“You are obviously disappointed when you are going in as favourite and you have been unbeaten, but when you weigh it all up, the run wasn’t as bad as it probably seemed.”
Noble said his filly has improved with the run and he is looking forward to lining her up in her first Group One assignment.
“She has improved with the run fitness-wise, so I think we will see the real Bavella on Saturday,” Noble said.
“If she can recapture that form that she showed at Counties when she won (the Listed 2YO Stakes), we have got to be in there somewhere.”
While confident heading into the race, Noble said Bavella will have to overcome the best of her crop on Saturday.
“Now we are seeing the cream of the two-year-old crop together for the first time, both fillies and colts, so it’s interesting,” Noble said. “It’s definitely not going to be easy.”
Bavella has drawn gate eight and Noble is hoping there won’t be a repeat performance of last start when she jumps on Saturday.
“If she’s slightly slow away again it is going to make it very difficult,” he said.
“If she gets a flyer, like she usually jumps, hopefully we are able to get across and not get trapped three-wide, but that’s always the risk.
“But that’s why we have Leith (Innes) riding. He is a big race rider, he knows her and he’ll give her the best run he can.”
There are more Group One targets on the horizon for Bavella, but Noble said he just wants to get through Saturday’s race before a decision is made on her future plans.
“I don’t get too far ahead,” Noble said. “She’s nominated for the Sires’ Produce (Gr.1, 1400m) and the Golden Slipper (Gr.1, 1200m), but both of those races are totally dependent on how she goes on Saturday.”
Meanwhile, stablemate Prince Jabeel has undergone a meteoric rise this season that will result in a tilt at the Gr.1 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup (3200m) at Ellerslie on Saturday.
The five-year-old son of Savabeel began the season in maiden company and has gone on to win the Gr.3 City of Auckland Cup (2400m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day and place in the Gr.3 Wellington Cup (3200m) in January.
He headed into the Listed Kaimai Stakes (2000m) at Matamata last month in a fresh state and Noble said nothing went right for his charge in his unplaced run.
“Matamata was just a disaster that day,” Noble said. “He’d had a freshen-up and the track was soft, which he doesn’t like, he wants it very firm.
“He played up in the starting gates, so he was slow away, and because they rushed into that first corner he wasn’t quick enough to get to his usual position, so he got back in the field.
“When they came around the bend he coped a check, he wasn’t going to be threatening the winner, but it looked like he was going to make some solid ground.
“On paper it looked very disappointing, but watching it a few times afterwards I think he had a few excuses.”
Noble is hoping Prince of Jabeel can recapture his earlier form and cap off what has been a stellar season for the gelding.
“Back to Ellerslie on Saturday, a firm track and two miles, I think he should go back to his form before Matamata and if he runs up to that then he should be in there somewhere,” Noble said.
“He has come a long way since the beginning of the season where he was a maidener and to now be in the Auckland Cup.
“It’s been a long season, but he looks great and he’s fit.
“He’s drawn wide again (14), he never seems to cop a decent draw in his life, but at least it gives us an option to roll forward if they slacken the speed.
“Win, lose or draw he will be in the paddock, but hopefully he can go out on a high.” – NZ Racing Desk