Group One target for Brando
Three-year-old feature races now beckon the Jamie Richards-trained Brando after his maiden victory in the Mainfreight 1400 at Te Aroha on Wednesday.
The son of Savabeel had a picket fence form line at the trials prior to finishing runner-up behind $2.60 Gr.1 Barneswood Farm New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) favourite Tinker McPhee on debut at Matamata earlier this month.
Punters duly backed the Te Akau runner into $1.30 favouritism for his Te Aroha assignment and he delivered for his supporters, winning by a long head over Deep Beauty, with a further 4-1/4 lengths back to Cleverconversation in third.
Brando was purchased by Te Akau Principal David Ellis out of Riversley Park's 2019 New Zealand Bloodstock Ready To Run Sale draft for $500,000.
"He's had two starts for a second and a win, and I thought it was a good effort from a wide draw (12)," Ellis said.
"He had to use plenty of petrol early to get over and it was a beautiful ride by Danielle (Johnson), and what you come to expect from our premiership-leading rider."
Ellis, along with trainer Jamie Richards, has decided to bypass the Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton next month in favour of other three-year-old features in summer.
"Rather than go to Christchurch for the 2000 Guineas, we will set him for the Levin Classic (Gr. 1, 1600m) in January at Trentham," Ellis said.
"We've won that race recently with Hall of Fame and Age of Fire and it looks an ideal race for him."
Richards already has the $3 favourite for next month's Guineas, with Need I Say More, the impressive winner of the Gr.2 James And Annie Sarten Memorial Stakes last Saturday.
Cup contender in action
Gr.1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) contender Verry Elleegant stepped out at Flemington at Breakfast with the Stars on Tuesday and trainer Chris Waller is pleased with her build-up to the race that stops the nation.
"Mark Zahra said she was nice and bright and relaxed and he couldn't have been happier," Waller said.
It will be the first time the daughter of Zed has raced beyond 2500m, though Waller felt the step up in distance would not trouble her.
"The unknown is the two miles but it only looks a positive for her," he said. "She has won an Oaks, a Tancred and now a Caulfield Cup so three 2400m tests and she has won them all pretty well.
"I see no reason why the two miles isn't going to help her and she could improve but obviously taking on an international line-up, you have to respect what you are racing against."
Meanwhile, Humidor will be spelled after his unplaced run in the Gr.1 Cox Plate (2040m) on Saturday.
"He had a low-grade bleed from his lungs," Waller said. "What it would suggest is that his lungs would need a bit of a break, we will give him a good spell and monitor it closely when he comes back and push on in the Autumn.
"The vets are confident he will be fine, it is quite a common thing in horses."
Ranting ready for Coolmore
New Zealand-bred colt Ranting will face his biggest test to date when he steps out in Saturday's Gr.1 Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m) at Flemington.
The Troy Corstens-trained son of Zoustar was a last-start winner of the Gr.3 Blue Sapphire Stakes (1200m) and Corstens admitted the three-year-old would have to be on his best behaviour to score in elite company.
"Ranting can still do a little bit wrong," he said. "You saw in the Blue Sapphire that he pulled extremely hard. He's not going to be able to do that on Saturday in the grand final against this opposition."
He said the key to Ranting was to get him to switch off so he could use his explosive finish and he was pleased with how he had come through his gut-busting win in the three-horse Blue Sapphire Stakes.
"I was actually surprised how well he came through that. We're very pleased with the way that he's done and I think we're on track for Saturday," he said.
Corstens was happy with Ranting's work on Tuesday at Breakfast with the Stars at Flemington, saying he wasn't asked to do much, running home his last 400m in 23.6 seconds.
Platinum Invador vying for Cup berth
Group One performer Platinum Invador will have a last ditch effort at trying to secure a spot in the Gr.1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) when he lines-up at Flemington on Saturday.
The son of Redwood will contest the Gr.3 Hotham Stakes (2500m) with the winner gaining automatic entry into the race that stops a nation next Tuesday.
Having transferred from Lisa Latta to Peter Moody's Pakenham barn earlier this spring, Platinum Invador showed a glimpse of his best when third in the Gr.2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) at Caulfield earlier this month before a seventh placing in the Gr.3 Geelong Cup (2400m) last start.
"His New Zealand form says he has got a short, sharp sprint," Moody said.
"Luke (Nolen, jockey) rode him the other day and wheeled out around them and in hindsight we should have ridden him a little bit closer and we should have just waited and had one crack at them in the straight. He gets to them and just struggles.
"We will be riding him for luck and riding him to try and produce it in the straight rather than on the circle this weekend. He is in good order. Is he good enough? We will find out a bit more in the weekend."
Platinum Invador won four of his 20 starts in New Zealand, including the Gr.3 City Of Auckland Cup (2400m), and placed in the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m), Gr.1 Auckland Cup (3200m), Listed Wanganui Cup (2040m), Gr.3 Manawatu Cup (2400m), and Gr.2 Avondale Cup (2400m).
He was purchased by Latta out of Westbury Stud's 2017 New Zealand Bloodstock Festival Yearling Sale draft for $25,000.