Never-say-die Bullbars mare Te Toro Pearl has Cambridge trainer Jon Miller daring to dream big ahead of Saturday's Listed Ultimate Ford And Mazda Tauranga Classic (1400m).
Miller will produce his stable star in the weight-for-age fillies and mares feature not only with the aim of winning but also with a view to assessing her prospects for next season's Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) at Hastings.
Entries for the first Group One race of the new season close on July 16 and provided Te Toro Pearl continues to please Miller, she is likely to be among those aimed at the August 31 showpiece.
"We could look at the Opunake Cup (Listed, 1400m) with her after this or we could bypass New Plymouth and focus on having her ready for Hastings," Miller said.
"I've always thought she was as good on a dead track as she is on a heavy track and she showed that when she ran second first-up this preparation at Ellerslie. She was only beaten a nose that day and that was a Good3."
Bred and raced by Keith and Craig Pennell, Te Toro Pearl has won four of her eight starts and last start ran second to Sleeping Beauty in the Listed Rotorua Stakes (1400m) last month under the same fillies and mares weight-for-age conditions for regular rider Cameron Lammas.
"That race took a bit out of her. It was a pretty testing track that day and she sat three and four wide the whole race," Miller said.
"It wasn't Cameron's fault. It was just the way the race was run but she still came home well. She's done really well since then too. She galloped really nicely this morning. I've got my fingers crossed.
"It's been six weeks between races so we're in the same boat as Sleeping Beauty, who hasn't raced since Rotorua either, and she's probably the horse to beat again. It's not a bad field the way it's come up but she's in with a good chance.
"She doesn't give up. It's just with the six weeks between races, I hope I've got the preparation right."
TAB bookmakers opened Te Toro Pearl as a $9 sixth favourite in a market headed by Sleeping Beauty at $4.20 and last year's winner New York Minute at $5, but Miller has few concerns and is expecting another typically gritty effort from his mare.
"She can jump out and put herself there now so with Donna Anne Billy in there, hopefully they'll spread out a bit and she can tucked in just better than midfield. She never looks like she's going very well but there's always something up her sleeve."
Miller, a former accountant, is enjoying life in Cambridge after relocating south from Pukekohe just under two years ago.
“I was doing it (accountancy) at the same time when I was training a small team, I was going to work and training the horses as well,” he said.
“Sir Valiant won about six races and I was working at the same time. I vowed and declared if I got another good one I would concentrate on them.
“Then Dasoudi came along and around then I started to cut back on the accountancy a bit and concentrate on her and that was worth it.
“The Chinese bought my place at Pukekohe, everything was going berserk and it was too good to turn down. There were no second thoughts on that one.
“I’m currently working five, just young horses really, though I’ve got the stables here to take a few more.
“I’ve retired Waipipi Lad but I’ve got about 17 boxes here and I plan to utilise the place a bit more than what I have been doing.”
Miller has been involved in racing for 35 years and said it was about 20 years ago that he took out his trainer’s licence.
“I started out with Sheza Huntress, Valiant Warrior and Sir Valiant, they were the three that started it off,” he said.
Miller rates Dasoudi as the best horse he has had to date, but he is hopeful Te Toro Pearl can surpass her.
“I have only ever had a small team but Dasoudi was Group One placed in the Thorndon and the Otaki race (Otaki Maori WFA, 1600m).
“I also had Prince of Passion who was second in the Thorndon Mile a couple of years ago. It is a race that annoys me and I’m determined to win it. I’ve only had a couple of horses in the race and I have placed second each time.” – NZ Racing Desk