Cambridge trainer Shelley Hale is hoping she can produce a two-pronged attack on Saturday's Manco Easter Stakes at Ellerslie after Seventh Up's comfortable victory at Tauranga on the weekend.
The lightly raced six-year-old made it three wins from three starts at Tauranga when he cruised to success in the day's feature event, the Taste Of Asia Mount Maunganui 1400. Punters who installed the Shinko King gelding as a warm favourite for the contest were on good terms with themselves as veteran rider Grant Cooksley produced a copybook display to land the victory.
Cooksley bounced Seventh Up from the gates to take up a forward position in the early stages of the race before sending his charge to the lead upon straightening. Under a very kind ride Seventh Up found the line strongly to score by a half-length and set himself up for a tilt at this weekend's Ellerslie Group Two feature.
"I was a little nervous going in as I wasn't sure just how heavy the track would be after all the rain we've had," admitted Hale.
"His record on heavy ground is very good but he doesn't really like it that much, it's just that he always gives his very best and tries his heart out.
"He prefers it more in the dead to slow range so I'm hoping he gets something like that on Saturday."
Hale has had the Easter Stakes pin-pointed as the main target for this campaign after sending the horse for a break following a courageous run for fourth in the Coupland's Bakeries Mile back in November.
"He jarred up very badly after Riccarton so we had to put him out for a decent break," she explained.
"I set him for Ellerslie then but it hasn't been easy going and for a while I didn't think I could get him back in time.
"He has really thrived over the last few weeks so I'm pleased with him and although it will be a hot field I think he is up to it."
Hale is also hopeful her progressive sprinter-miler Go Nicholas can also gain a start in the race, providing her boutique stable with two live chances.
"We've also had the Easter in mind for Go Nicholas but his rating is lower than Seventh Up so he might miss out on a start," she said.
"I think if he did sneak in he would not be a forlorn hope as he just loves it at Ellerslie and has a lethal sprint when saved up for one run at them. They often run the race at a very genuine tempo so that would definitely be to his advantage."