Trainer Peter McKay is confident that Puccini is on track to contest the 2014 Cox Plate after he recorded an impressive victory in the Group 3 Metric Mile (1600m) at Awapuni on September 13.
Puccini returned to the races with a flat fourth behind Antonio Lombardo in the Carter Bloodstock Handicap (1200m) at Ruakaka on August 30, but produced a far stronger performance in the Metric Mile to record his first win since he took out the Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) in March.
McKay revealed after the race that he was considering sending Puccini straight to Australia to run in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on October 4, but he told Racing Ahead this morning that the Encosta De Lago entire will have another race start in New Zealand before returning to Australian racing in the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 25.
“After the race the other day I was getting quite keen to come straight over to Australia, but I think that we will hold back here and go into the Livamol Spring Classic, which is on the fourth of October,” McKay said.
“I am aiming to have a crack at the Cox Plate and at this stage that is my main aim.
“If he can win good enough here and just go over there on his fourth run and have his best crack at it.
“If it becomes a problem that we might not be able to get into the Cox Plate then we will run in the Caulfield Cup, but I am hoping that everything goes right.”
Puccini made his Australian racing debut with a disappointing 12th behind Criterion in the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) on March 29, after which jockey Michael Walker was heavily criticised for his ride, while Craig Williams took over on the entire when he produced an improved performance in the Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m).
Williams has shown interest in riding Puccini in the Cox Plate, but McKay said that he will wait until closer to the race before he decides who will partner his star galloper in the Australasian Weight-For-Age Championship.
“I haven’t yet got a rider, but a couple have had a bit of interest as to when he is coming over and to keep them in mind,” McKay said.
“If it is the Cox Plate we are going for, at this stage the jockeys would be toing and froing with their rides and waiting until closer to see what the best chance will be.
“We just hope that we come out and can win good and then hopefully that can secure us a decent rider.”
Puccini is currently available at 2014 Cox Plate odds of $34 in the betting markets for the Group 1 event with Ladbrokes Australia.