Te Akau Shark (Image: Race Images)
Te Akau Shark continues to firm for his two Group 1 assignments in Australia after the untapped galloped cruised in a trial win at Te Rapa on Monday.
The winner of five of his six starts has not raced since November last year due to a string of niggling injuries but trainer Jamie Richards was happy to confirm an August 17 kick-off point for the horse many consider to be a genuine Cox Plate contender.
"We’re happy with him," Richards told Racing.com on Monday morning.
"He’s going well. We’ll push on for the Foxbridge (Plate at Te Rapa on August 17) and then hopefully he can come over.
"He looks well and he likes the tracks at this time of year so everything looks good.
"He’s a clean winded sort of horse who was pretty relaxed and seemed to do it easily."
Richards had to cancel Te Akau Shark’s autumn campaign due to a series of maturity problems, which he hopes the horse has shaken off during his spell on the sidelines.
"At this stage everything‘s good," he said. "No niggles so we’ll press on."
Te Akau Shark is the $7 favourite with BetEasy for his first Australian Group 1 in the Epsom Handicap (1600m) at Randwick on October 5 but the horse is likely to have his first Sydney run before that.
"He’ll have a run over there somewhere possibly in the Tramway (Stakes)," Richards said. "We’ll just work it out and go from there.
"If he races well in the Epsom, the plan is to go to the Cox Plate."
Te Akau Shark has firmed onto the fifth line of Cox Plate betting at $13.
While Te Akau Shark was keen to impress on Monday, his six-time Group 1 winning stable mate Melody Belle struggled a little in her trial but Richards was willing to forgive her effort ahead of her return in the Foxbridge Stakes also.
"She got back in the field between runners today and the trial track here is tight-turning and she just didn’t make the corner that well," he said
"She probably didn’t trial quite as well as we’d expected but she’s an older mare now but we’ll get the blinkers back on her on race day and they’ll know she’s there."
Unlike Te Akau Shark, Melody Belle’s spring campaign is based around New Zealand’s best races but she will come to The Valley for the Cox Plate if she can find her best form.
After the Foxbridge, she will defend her Group 1 titles in the Tarzino Trophy (1400m) and Windsor Park Plate (1600m) before stretching out to the Cox Plate distance of 2040 metres for the Group 1 Livamol Classic.