In con­tention at Awa­puni

Weekend Herald - - RACING -

Hopes for a suc­cess­ful re­turn to rac­ing from Hard Mer­chan­dize on his home turf today were sig­nif­i­cantly boosted dur­ing the week.

The Bur­gundy geld­ing im­pressed dur­ing his two- year- old cam­paign last term and he will open his clas­sic sea­son in the Agri­com Hand­i­cap ( 1200m) at Awa­puni.

“I thought be­fore his fi­nal gal­lop that if he could run in the first three I would be happy,” part- owner and trainer Gary Vile said.

“After that gal­lop, which was very, very good, he’s ready to give them all some­thing to think about.” Hard Mer­chan­dize won three ju­ve­nile races, in­clud­ing the Listed Castle­town Stakes ( 1200m), fin­ished third at Tren­tham and fifth in the Gr. 1 Manawatu Sires’ Pro­duce Stakes ( 1400m).

He was rid­den in all his starts by Hay­den Tins­ley, but today Vile has opted to en­gage ap­pren­tice Ti­mothy John­son who can claim two ki­los.

“He’ll carry 53kg, which is a com­pet­i­tive weight and with three weeks to the Hawke’s Bay Guineas the tim­ing is re­ally good,” he said.

Vile will also pro­duce an­other fresh run­ner in Slim­line, who tack­les the Gr. 3 Boehringer In­gel­heim Met­ric Mile ( 1550m).

“She’s had t wo tri­als and won them both im­pres­sively,” he said. “It’s the best field she has ever met and I would have liked her more on a slow track. The heavy go­ing does worry me, but she de­serves her chance.”

Slim­line was in fine form dur­ing her au­tumn cam­paign with two wins, one in the Listed Manawatu An­zac ( 1550m), and she also fin­ished run­ner- up in the Listed Ran­gi­tikei Gold Cup ( 1600m).

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