Trelawney Stud have a strong representation on Boxing Day with several stakes contenders as well as strong supporting acts on the undercard at Ellerslie and Caulfield.
Leading the charge is Two Illicit in the Gr.1 Cambridge Stud Zabeel Classic (2000m) at Ellerslie on Sunday.
The daughter of Jimmy Choux enters the Ellerslie contest on the back of a devastating win in the rescheduled Gr.1 Captain Cook Stakes (1600m) at Te Rapa a fortnight ago.
She will be joined in the day's feature by fellow Trelawney Stud graduates Concert Hall, who was born and raised on the farm for owner-breeder Joan Egan, and Prise De Fer who was purchased out of the farm's 2017 New Zealand Bloodstock Premier Yearling draft by Te Akau Racing's David Ellis.
Consistent performer Prise De Fer has multiple top-flight placings to his credit and the Jamie Richards-trained representative is in top order for Ellerslie where he will attempt to breakthrough at the highest level on Boxing Day.
Prise De Fer’s three previous appearances have been in top company and last time out finished runner-up in the Gr.1 Captain Cook Stakes (1600m) after he had been third in the Gr.1 Livamol Classic (2040m) and second in the Gr.1 Windsor Park Plate (1600m).
“He’s done well and he’s a good, honest horse and is in good form. He is sound and healthy, but he does have a bad habit of running into one better on the day,” Richards said.
“He has prepared well and everything has gone according to plan, so we’ll see whether he can knock one off.”
While Richards is expecting Prise De Fer to give another bold account of himself at Ellerslie, he believes another upcoming opportunity at a feature event could be an even better fit.
“He’s going well and probably a race like the Thorndon Mile (Gr.1, 1600m) at set weights and penalties is a really nice race for him,” he said.
“That’s where he’ll be going and could be better-suited in a race like that. I think a mile is his pet distance, but he does get a good 2000m as well so it gives us plenty of options.”
Earlier in the day undefeated three-year-old Pareanui Bay will contest a strong edition of the Listed Shaw's Wire Ropes Uncle Remus Stakes (1400m).
The gelded son of Lonhro will clash with Group One winner On The Bubbles, while Pareanui Bay’s Guineas-placed stablemate Field Of Gold is also no slouch, not to mention a trio of progressive fillies also adding further intrigue to the race.
It will be a month between runs for Pareanui Bay, who burst on the scene when winning on debut at Te Rapa in October, backing it up with wins in the Gr.2 Sarten Memorial (1400m) and Listed Trevor & Corallie Eagle Memorial 3YO (1500m).
Despite the month between runs, punters can be confident $2 favourite is up to the mark and blinkers will sharpen the progressive youngster.
“He’s flying,” trainer Tony Pike said of Pareanui Bay. “He went to Ellerslie last Friday for a track gallop up there, just for a look around Ellerslie. He worked really well.
“We have decided to put the blinkers on him this weekend as he just wandered around a bit at Te Aroha.
“He is definitely heading the right way. I couldn’t be happier with him, but he just can’t pull a barrier, and he has drawn wide again on Sunday (barrier 10).
“He has started from outside gates at all three starts and sat three-deep and still won, so he is a very highly talented horse and barring bad luck we hope he will be seen in some of the better three-year-old races in Australia at some stage.”
Pareanui Bay is not eligible for the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) and will head to the Gr.2 Life Direct Wellington Guineas (1400m) at Trentham on January 15.
“We would like to think he is good enough to head to Sydney, but we will just get through these next two runs and then have a regroup. We could possibly even press on to a Herbie Dyke Stakes (Gr.1, 2000m) and take on older horses,” Pike said.
Rounding out Trelawney Stud's stakes hopefuls is Vamos Bebe who lines up in the Listed Uncle Remus Stakes (1200m).
The five-year-old mare is a winner over 1200m this season and enters the race off the back of a trial win at Rotorua earlier this month.
Also at Ellerslie is Samiam Seussie who contests the Auckland Co-Op Taxis 1400. The four-year-old daughter of Hinchinbrook has had two starts in New Zealand since crossing the Tasman and was a last-start fourth when stepping out over 1400m at Te Rapa.
Meanwhile in Australia, the Ben & JD Hayes-trained Excelida is racing for a potential trip to New Zealand when she lines up at Caulfield on Boxing Day.
The well-bred daughter of Exceed And Excel runs in the Allan Wicks Handicap (1400m) on Sunday and her performance will determine her immediate future.
Excelida is owned by Cambridge Stud proprietors Brendan and Jo Lindsay and there is consideration of the mare heading to New Zealand for a Group One race in February.
But if that fails to eventuate there are other black-type options in Melbourne that her Lindsay Park conditioners are considering.
Placed at Listed level and runner-up at Group Three level, a win at stakes level would be a significant boost for Excelida's future as a broodmare.
And a Group One win would enhance her value further before joining the prized Cambridge Stud broodmare band.
"We've got in the back of our mind heading over to New Zealand for a Group One, the BCD Group Sprint over 1400m at Te Rapa on February 12, but we'll have to see how she runs at home first," Ben Hayes said.
"If she come out and wins impressively, then we'll have a serious think about it.
"There's a Listed race over 1400m at Caulfield next month, but that depends on how she performs on Sunday and she will need to have good form to head over to New Zealand."
Excelida was successful at Flemington in September before running fourth in the Listed Black Pearl Stakes (1200m) at Geelong in October.
She has not been sighted since finishing second to Rich Hips in the Gr. 3 Hong Kong Jockey Club Stakes (1400m) at Flemington on Melbourne Cup Day.
Hayes explained there had been an attempt to get the mare in foal during the spring.
"But she just wasn't cycling," Hayes said.
"So, they have decided to race her on for another year, which is great for our stable and I think it's paid off as she had been racing very well."
Bred by Trelawney Stud in partnership with John and Di Struthers, Excelida is a daughter of Exceed and Excel and Lady Sayyida, an Iffraaj half-sister to multiple Group One winner and successful sire Ocean Park, and to the dam of the dual Group One winner and sire Grunt.