Palmerston North trainer Kevin Gray hopes to shed any concerns over his smart galloper Testa Secret when she contests the $80,000 Windsor Park Taranaki Breeders' Stakes, 1400m, at Hawera tomorrow.
Testa Secret made the field off the ballot list for the Egmont Racing Club's wfa feature for fillies and mares when Who She and Cissy Bowen were scratched yesterday afternoon.
But that still left one hurdle to be cleared - finding a suitable jockey.
''I'll be definitely be taking her up if I can find a suitable rider,'' Gray said yesterday.
Lisa Allpress was down to ride Testa Secret before the fields were declared, but when the horse was put on the ballot, Allpress asked to be released so she could ride the Stephen McKee-trained Floria.
''I let Lisa off and now I have to find another suitable rider. It's not going to be easy with a feature meeting at Matamata on the same day,'' Gray said.
Testa Secret will only have to produce the form she showed as a two and three year-old to be a definite winning chance in tomorrow's race.
The four-year-old daughter of Testa Rossa was a rising star early on in her career. She won her first two races, including the listed Castletown Stakes at Foxton, and went on to finish second in the listed Ryder Stakes in her only other outing that season.
Testa Secret started her three-year-old campaign strongly, scoring group or listed placings in five of her first six starts. She was then put aside after finishing out of the money twice on hard summer tracks.
She kicked off her four-year-old season when seventh of 12 over 1200m early in September, before disappointing as favourite when beating just two home over 1400m on a heavy track at Awapuni on September 15.
Gray admitted he expected a lot better.
''Whether it was because she was in season or not, I don't really know, but it was the first time she didn't want to go into the gates and was sweating up badly before she went to the start,'' Gray said.
''When she did her preliminary she tried to take off with Hayden [rider Hayden Tinsley] and normally she wouldn't pull the skin off a rice pudding. She was all worked up.
''Then she was slow away and went to the inside and it was really heavy down there and she probably wasn't ready for a hard race.''
Gray put the poor showing down to Testa Secret being a bit fresh.
''I've just put it behind me and carried on training her as if there was nothing wrong,'' he said.
''She'd been in work right through the winter when it was wet and cold so it might just have been that she'd done too well.''
Since last racing, Testa Secret has gone ahead leaps and bounds, according to Gray.
She scored a stylish win in a 1000m open trial at Foxton on October 2, beating runner-up and open class sprinter Joku home by 1-1/2 lengths.
''She won that trial nicely and she's ready to go,'' he said. ''I think she's well and I'd be disappointed if she doesn't go a good race on Saturday.''
The Hawera track was yesterday described a dead 5, but heavy rain is being forecast for tomorrow.
Whatever the track condition Testa Secret strikes it isn't expected to worry her as she has won twice on heavy tracks and performed at group level on top of the ground.
David Hawarth looks to have a strong hand in race, with Guessing and Kekova both form runners.
Guessing was runner-up behind Dating in the corresponding race last year.
The Keeper mare has been freshened since her gutsy last start run for second over 1400m against rating 85 company at Hastings on September 1.
''She's all good and ready to go,'' said Hawarth, who used a 1000m trial at Foxton early this month to help tune up Guessing for tomorrow's race.
Guessing was unplaced in the trial, but Howarth was happy.
''She just wandered round and did all that we wanted. We wanted to ride her back a bit and try and get her to relax and settle as at Hastings last start she went pretty hard out in front early.
''We're pretty happy with her.''
Howarth would like to see the track now better than dead for Guessing, who needs the sting out of the ground.
Hawarth is looking for a firm track for Kekova, who showed she had come up well in the fresh campaign when powering home from well back for second in an open 1200m sprint at Hastings on September 2. It was her first outing following a six-month break away from the racetrack.
''If it does rain Kekova probably won't go to Hawera,'' Hawarth said.
He said if Kekova did happen to be scratched then Tinsley, who is down to ride the horse, would most likely take the mount on Guessing.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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