Matamata trainer Peter McKay in expecting Puccini to figure in the finish of the Group 1 $500,000 Tab.com.au Rosehill Guineas (2000m) at Rosehill on Saturday and knows that the three year will take a lot of improvement out of the run.
McKay is quietly confident that Puccini will handle the anticipated heavy track at Rosehill as he saddles up for his first run since winning the Group 1 NZ$750,000 TV3 NZ Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie on March 1.
The Kiwi trainer is eyeing off the Group 1 $2m BMW Australian Derby (2400m) at Randwick on April 12, the first day of ‘The Championships’, and a top four finish would satisfy McKay who trains in partnership with his son Jacob.
“If he can finish in the first three or four and put in a good run I’d be happy going into the Derby,” Peter McKay told the Sportsman.
“Bearing in mind he hasn’t raced for a month and he’s up against some fit horses, he will improve when he goes to 2400m.”
“He has beaten the best we have in New Zealand and generally the form stacks up in the staying races.”
McKay can see the depth and quality of the Rosehill Guineas field and knows that Puccini will have to be near his top to be competitive.
“Your have a Cox Plate winner there and you’ve got Dissident there who has beaten a couple of our better rated three year olds.
Puccini is set to take on last year’s Cox Plate winner Shamus Award who returned in the Autumn to win the Group 1 $500,000 Australian Guineas (1600m) at Flemington on March 1 before finishing sixth to Fiorente in the Group 1 $1m Darley Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington the following week.
And Dissident is racing in outstanding form beating the Kiwi three year old Atlante in the Group 2 $200,000 Hobartville Stakes (1400m) at Rosehill on March 1 and then holding out fellow New Zealander El Roca in the Group 1 $600,000 Royal Randwick Guineas (1600m) at Randwick two weeks later.
McKay says that he really doesn’t know if Puccini will be able to handle the heavy track but he is going into the race with his fingers cross remembering that the Encosta De Lago colt has won on a New Zealand dead track back home.
“It’s is unknown to us how well he will go in the wet,” McKay said.
“The day he won on a dead 5 it was probably a bit worse than that and I think it might equate to a slow 7 here.”
“I think he can cop it, you don’t know until you race on it but I have no choice.”
Kiwi jockey Michael Walker is set to continue his association with Puccini after partnering him to three wins from his last three starts.
Prior to their NZ Derby win, the pair combined to win the Group 2 NZ$100,000 Darci Brahma Waikato Guineas (2000m) at Te Rapa on February 1 followed by a win in the Group 2 NZ$100,000 Auckland Eye Avondale Guineas (2100m) at Ellerslie on February 15.
Puccini currently shares favouritism for the Rosehill Guineas with Dissident and the pair are marked at $5 with Ladbrokes.com.au slightly ahead of the Cox Plate winner Shamus Award at $6.50 and Queensland three year old Teronado at $8 while Atlante is out to $15.