Maungatautari trainers Steven Ramsay and Julia Ritchie will shoot for the Te Rapa feature double on Saturday's Waikato Times Gold Cup day programme, writes Aidan Rodley
Gr I winner Guiseppina is at a crossroad.
The Steven Ramsay and Julia Ritchie-trained Telegraph Handicap winner will go into Saturday's Gr II $85,000 Cal Isuzu Stakes (1600m) at Te Rapa as one of the best winning chances.
Guiseppina renews her rivalry with multiple Gr I winner Shez Sinsational in the weight-for-age fillies and mares race on Waikato Times Gold Cup day, the first time the pair have clashed since they ran first and second in the Gr I Spring Classic (2040m) at Hastings in October.
Shez Sinsational came out on top that day, winning by half a length, and while Ramsay has his sights set on squaring the score on Saturday, the race also looms as a key race in determining which summer Gr I feature Guiseppina targets.
''That's the big question and I'm actually not too sure what she'll do, to be honest,'' Ramsay said yesterday.
''There's obviously the Zabeel Classic at Ellerslie coming up but there's also the Telegraph Handicap and the
Thorndon at Trentham. She's been Gr I-placed at 1200m, 1400, 1600m and 2000m, so this race will guide us as to where we go next.''
The contrasting targets of the Gr I weight-for-age Zabeel Classic at 2000m on Boxing Day and the Gr I Telegraph Handicap, a 1200m handicap, underlines just how versatile Guiseppina has become over the past 12 months.
''It says a bit about the horse that she can operate at 1200m and 2000m,'' Ramsay said.
Guiseppina travelled to Trentham for last Saturday's Gr I Captain Cook Stakes but was withdrawn when the track came up a slow seven and, though the track was upgraded to a dead six later in the day, Ramsay was comfortable with the decision not to run.
''If it came up a dead track at the start, we probably would have kept her in, but the trip away has tightened her up a wee bit, which has been good,'' Ramsay said.
As well as the extra conditioning from a float trip to Wellington and back, Guiseppina's form has been made to look all the stronger through the Captain Cook Stakes as well.
The Trentham feature was taken out by Canterbury mare Final Touch, who had chased Guiseppina home in last month's Gr II Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders' Stakes at Pukekohe, where the pair finished fourth and third respectively.
''Even though Counties has got quite a long straight, they don't seem to come from that far back there, so for her to finish into third from near last in running was a pretty good effort,'' Ramsay said.
''Stepping up to a mile, Saturday's race looks ideal for her. She's done everything right leading up to this one and the forecast looks good, so hopefully we'll get quite a nice track there.''
Guiseppina's only previous run at Te Rapa was for fourth in the Gr I Waikato Draught Sprint (1400m) earlier this year.
She yesterday drew barrier six for the Cal Isuzu Stakes, in which Jonathan Riddell again takes the ride.
A field of 12 was accepted with Shez Sinsational, second to Lady Kipling in last year's race as a leadup to her Zabeel Classic triumph, drawing the outside gate.
Cissy Bowen has drawn barrier one with O'Fille in barrier three, Nicole Amy in four, Floria in seven and Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders' Stakes runner-up Miss Pelear in gate eight.
Ramsay and Ritchie have made a key gear change as they shoot for success in the day's headline race, the Gr II $100,000 Waikato Times Gold Cup (2400m).
Redoute's Choice mare Dolmabache, who overraced when finishing 14th in the Gr II Counties Cup at Pukekohe last month, will race without blinkers for rider Jason Waddell on Saturday.
''At Counties she got up and pulling on the speed, so we've taken the blinkers off,'' Ramsay said.
''Up to 2400m, she's going to want to relax a bit and that should help. She seems to be better ridden where she's comfortable and without the blinkers she should relax better.
''Her form at Te Rapa is pretty good. She won that Gr II [Travis Stakes] there and she was beaten a nose there one other time, so she seems to like Te Rapa.
''Each time she's run at Counties she's gone good. She ran last there [in the Karaka Classic] and then came out and ran fourth in the Spring Classic.
''Her work's been good. She's been relaxing well in her work without the blinkers, so we're approaching this one by just putting a line through her Counties run because she's been there twice now and both times gone no good.''
Ramsay said there was no reason why Dolmbache couldn't turn her Counties Cup form upside down and win the Waikato Cup.
''Providing she relaxes and settles, I believe she can win,'' he said.
Dolmabache yesterday drew barrier nine in a field of 13 for the Cup, with Counties Cup runner-up Arcenciel drawing barrier one, Fiorano gate two, Better Together three, Savvy Dancer seven, Counties Cup winner Jeu de Cartes barrier 10 and Annie Higgins barrier 12.