OPINION: Back In Black continues his buildup for next month's $500,000 Auckland Cup when he lines up in the $80,000 Taranaki Cup (1800m) at New Plymouth on Saturday.
The Te Aroha galloper kicked off a fresh campaign in the 1100m open sprint at Ellerslie last month and, as expected, was outpaced, beating only a couple of rivals home when finishing five lengths from winner Shandream.
Back In Black raced in Melbourne last spring where his best placing in five outings was a second behind Streets Ahead in the A$100,000 Kyneton Cup (2000m).
"He still won A$50,000 [NZ$61,300], so more than paid his way," part-owner and trainer John Steffert said. "We ended up with about A$20,000, so that was better than a kick in the teeth."
Steffert gave Back In Black a well-earned spell on his return home in November and mapped out a programme for the 7-year-old aimed towards the Auckland Cup on March 6.
"The only reason I raced him at Ellerslie in the sprint was simply that there weren't any trials around here and I wanted to check how his wind and other bits and pieces were," he said.
"There's been nowhere else suitable to go because he doesn't like the Te Rapa track and, besides that, the races there last week were weight-for-age and they don't suit him anyway. So we're going down to New Plymouth on Saturday to give him a run."
After the Group III Hooker Pacific Taranaki Cup, Back In Black will contest the open 2000m race at Matamata the following Saturday.
"I'll decide after those two races whether he needs to run in the Nathans Memorial [2200m] or not."
Steffert is pleased with how Back In Black has come up this preparation.
"He took on some of the the best horses in the world in Aussie last spring and gave them a bit of cheek," he said.
Steffert expects Back In Black to need the run in the Taranaki Cup, saying the race is a stepping stone towards the Auckland Cup. "That's the one we're after," he said. "I'm sure that wherever he finishes this Saturday, he will improve two or three lengths."
Waikato jockey Vinnie Colgan has been booked to ride Back In Black.
The Taranaki Cup has attracted 20 entries. Heading the list is last year's Auckland Cup runner-up Spiro on 59kg.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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