Superstar sprinter Mufhasa will contest Saturday's Gr I A$400,000 Orr Stakes at Caulfield in preference to the Gr I $200,000 Waikato Draught Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa.
The decision, confirmed by part-owner David Archer yesterday, means Mufhasa will miss the weight-for-age Waikato Sprint for the first time in five years, having won the race in 2009 and 2011 and placed in 2010, behind Tavistock and Wealth Princess, and last year, behind Veyron.
Mufhasa yesterday headed 17 entries for the Waikato Sprint, though even with his withdrawal a formidable lineup remains through the likes of Gr I winners Final Touch, Fleur de Lune, Guiseppina and Quintessential along with top-class performers Better Than Ever, Xanadu, Zurella, Fazzle, Jetset Lad and Antonio Lombardo.
Te Rapa's loss though is Melbourne's gain, with leading Australian jockey Michael Rodd taking the ride.
Rodd guided the then Stephen McKee-trained Mufhasa to success in the Gr I Toorak Handicap at Caulfield last season.
The Orr Stakes will be Mufhasa's first start for new trainer Bruce Wallace after Archer and his co-owners opted to transfer stables to keep the association between the 10-time Gr I-winning galloper and his strapper Amy Doran, who last month left the McKee stable.
The dual horse of the year will today fly to Melbourne, where Doran will attend to him ahead of the weight-for-age Orr Stakes, in which he will meet Gr I Caulfield Guineas winner and Cox Plate runner-up All Too Hard, Gr I Doomben Cup winner Mawingo, former Kiwi Gr I star Wall Street, Mr Moet, Pinwheel and the unbeaten Callanish.
"It wasn't an easy decision," Archer said yesterday.
"We really do love racing at Waikato and would have loved to have gone there. But Muf is getting to the end of his career and though it won't be easy up against All Too Hard and Callanish, we just felt it was the right thing to do. We're just going to give him his chance over there.
"We looked at the fields in both places and made our decision but even after we've made it, you're still not sure and we don't know if we've made the right decision or not."
Mufhasa, who will as usual in Melbourne be stabled with former Pukekohe trainer Russell Cameron, is a seasoned trans-Tasman traveller and Archer has no concerns about him coping with the trip.
"Muf's a wonderful horse. He's had 30 Gr I starts for 10 wins," Archer said.
"We know that running in Gr I races is never easy. When we first started thinking Australia, we thought the Orr might be a lot easier than it's turned out.
"But the Waikato Sprint has got some smart ones too. Final Touch and Xanadu especially are top class. Fleur de Lune, Guiseppina and Better Than Ever are all quality horses too, but Final Touch and Xanadu are high class and just as hard to beat as the Australians."
Entries for the Gr I $200,000 Darci Brahma International Stakes (2000m) at Te Rapa were bigger than anticipated, with 16 nominated, and had good depth through Gr I winners Shootoff, Artistic, Historian, Sangster and Choice Bro along with consistent top-level performers Lady Kipling, Dolmabache, Cassini, Hiace, Asavant and Pero.
Star filly Habibi was missing from the International Stakes entries with Ruakaka trainer Donna Logan yesterday saying she preferred to stick to her original programme of contesting the Gr II Avondale Guineas (2100m) at Ellerslie on Sunday week ahead of next month's Gr I New Zealand Derby (2400m).
Top rider Opie Bosson will ride Sangster with Matthew Cameron replacing him aboard Thorndon Mile runner-up Lady Kipling.
Fix, Soriano, Kidwelly and Abidewithme headed the 11 entries for the Gr II $100,000 Cambridge Stud Sir Tristram Fillies Classic (2000m).
- Waikato Times