Windsor Park Plate
Like a horse at the parade ring in Hastings just before a race, New Plymouth trainer Allan Sharrock comes across as a man on the edge.
He's talking all right during the phone interview but, like an agitated mount, he poses the threat of bolting unexpectedly.
The despondency in his voice is undeniable when asked if Shez Sinsational is looking good for today's $200,000 Windsor Park Plate in Hastings.
"She's drawn out on the barrier - 14 from 14," a morose Sharrock reveals, explaining if you put a protractor and draw a line to a pin in the middle you'll start getting a picture of what it'll be like to race in the feature group 1 race of the second meeting of the annual Rush Munro's Hawke's Bay Spring Racing Carnival at 4.36pm.
The tricky start at the Hastings track will make the 1600m race a bit of a lottery for those wide out although in Shez Sinsational's favour is reportedly her precocious ability to sprint at various stages of her races.
"I think it'll be very hard on Saturday," he says of the million-dollar earner who took the Queensland winter carnival in her stride this year.
For a mare who won the 3200m Stella Artois Auckland Cup, the Windsor Park Plate comes across to the uninitiated as a desperate move but Sharrock assures she's a classy number whose versatility is the common denominator.
Almost in the fashion of a jockey manoeuvring his mount out of a crowded bunch before inching closer to the inside lane, Sharrock changes tack by saying watch that space when they return for the $300,000 group 1 New Zealand Bloodstock Insurance Spring Classic over 2040m on October 6.
"Two weeks from now, it'll be a different story," he says, although it begs the question what if Shez Sinsational and jockey Opie Bosson pick another lousy barrier draw, but something tells me not to buck him at that juncture.
Needless to say, Sharrock hasn't exactly thrown in the towel today because it would make the trip down here futile but a slice of the prize money wouldn't go amiss. "I expect to win but there are all these variables," he says, adding Shez Sinsational does her best work late in the run.
The Ekraar mare hasn't had the best build-up, drifting steadily to the back of the field of the group III $70,000 Waikato Stud Foxbridge Plate on August 18, and managed to beat only two home.
Sharrock was disappointed Bosson, back from Singapore a few days earlier, showed up half a kilo overweight on the carded weight of 56.5kg.
However, he now says: "That was a non-event for me. It was more to look at her [Shez Sinsational's] fitness."
While he suspects Mufhasa will live up to his favouritism today, Sharrock hastens to add he got the Stella Artois Auckland Cup winner three times in the starting line and succeeded every time when it mattered most.
Racing stalwarts reckon Sharrock may be talking down his chances in the customary pre-race ritual but he'll be fancying his chances as much as any other trainer.
Not surprisingly trainer Steven Ramsay is also talking up nine-time group one winner Mufhasa's chances.
But while in Gisborne on Thursday, Ramsay was keen on what the weather was doing here as he gauged the conditions of a good track for Guiseppina.
The mare had to settle for fifth in the Makfi Challenge Stakes on September 1 with James McDonald in the saddle but started from the 18th barrier to finish two lengths off the winner, Ocean Park, and jockey Lisa Allpress.
McDonald is now based in Sydney and has recommended Jonathan Riddell to saddle Guiseppina.
"He's [Riddell] really happy and Guiseppina ran really quick," Ramsay says of the Palmerston North-based rider who went to Cambridge for his first ride on the Telegraph Handicap heroine.
Ramsay, who trains Guiseppina with partner Julia Ritchie, has drawn the ninth barrier and is banking on some luck. His talks with senior owner Peter Vela quite regularly via phone and the Portuguese delighted with Guiseppina's progress.
"She [Guiseppina] likes a good ground so hopefully she'll go really hard out in the last 200m to be on her game," Ramsay says of the mare.
In a shade over 12 starts, Guiseppina has earned her owners $285,000.