Hastings trainer Patrick Campbell will contest two black-type races at Awapuni on Saturday and he is hoping both Hunta Pence and Scandalo can put in a good showing.
Hunta Pence will head into the Gr.2 City of Palmerston North Awapuni Gold Cup (2000m) in good form having won his last two starts in the Wairoa Cup Trial (1900m) and Metroclad Handicap (1600m) at Trentham.
“I was quite convinced going into Wairoa, the horse desperately needed a win after having gone very good races without winning,” Campbell said.
“I think it was a confidence booster for him at Wairoa. That followed through to Wellington, albeit a four horse field. The horse seemed to be a little more confident.
“He was allowed a fairly soft lead, which helped when the pressure came on at the 200m, but he was coming back from 1900m to a mile.
“It might have only been four runners, but they were pretty capable gallopers, so it was certainly a step in the right direction.”
Hunta Pence has drawn the outside gate in the 11 horse field, but Campbell isn’t overly perturbed with the barrier.
“It probably doesn’t help, but it doesn’t make too much difference I think,” Campbell said.
“Sometimes you draw in at the 2000m at Palmerston North and miss it slightly you end up in a bit of a problem. So the fact that he has drawn out, he might have to cover a little bit of ground early, but it’s probably not the worst result.
“I know there are three or four on-pace runners inside him, so I am sure it will be run pretty truly. They just might spread out a little bit going out of the straight.”
Campbell is pleased with Hunta Pence heading into the race and said his charge is on a path towards the Listed Hawke’s Bay Cup (2200m) on his home track next month.
“I am very happy with him. On paper it’s a very strong field, as you would expect for that sort of prizemoney.”
Meanwhile, stablemate Scandalo will resume in in the Listed Bramco Granite & Marble Flying Handicap (1400m) after feeling the firm tracks over the Christmas period.
“He jarred up very badly in his last two starts around Christmas time and the most recent one being the Anniversary (Gr.3, 1600m) at Wellington.
“The firmer tracks tickled him up a little bit, but he has overcome that and is bright as a button, hopefully the ground won’t be too firm for him on Saturday.”
Scandalo has drawn the ace barrier and while Campbell doesn’t expect his charge to win, he would be happy with a top four finish.
“Scandalo has not had a trial or jumpout (leading into the race), but in saying that he has got through a fair bit of work and he has invariably gone well fresh. I’d like to think that he would be running in the money, third or fourth.”
Campbell has mixed feelings about the wet weather forecast for Palmerston North on Saturday.
“Hunter Pence doesn’t mind a softer track,” he said.
“With Scandalo, it’s a little bit different. He would handle a soft track no problem, but if the track is inclined to break up or a little bit shifting, he seems to be a little apprehensive on that.
“He would rather get no rain or a fair bit of rain rather than just a little bit.” – NZ Racing Desk