Guy Lowry and Grant Cullen know how to shock punters, especially at Trentham, and they are hoping they can do it again on Saturday.
The Hastings training partners will be represented in the Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand Oaks (2400m) by the lightly tried Unlaced, a daughter of Niagara who has recorded two wins, two seconds and a last-start stakes placing in her five starts.
“It would be nice to rock them again,” Lowry said.
“It’s a big ask for her and we’re hopeful. I guess that’s all you can be against some of the top fillies, but she has been set for the race for a long time and we’re happy with her so we’ll line her up.”
Lowry and Cullen have joined forces for three Group One wins and two of those have been at Trentham, both in the Gr.1 Telegraph (1200m).
The first of those Telegraph wins was with $8 chance Irish Fling (8/1) in 2014 and they really stung punters with the other one, Adventador, two years later when winning at $80-1.
Before going into partnership with Lowry, Cullen left punters reeling when he prepared Miss Bailey to win the 1999 Gr.1 Wellington Cup (3200m) at $140-1.
Unlaced, bred and raced by prominent New Zealand racing photographer Trish Dunell, is currently rated a $40 prospect in the New Zealand Oaks, with Jennifer Eccles a raging hot fixed odds favourite at $1.80 ahead of the Gr.1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) winner Loire ($6) and Showbeel ($10), winner of the Gr.3 Desert Gold Stakes (1600m).
Unlaced met all three Oaks favourites when she faced her first test beyond 1600m last start in the Gr.2 Lowland Stakes (2100m) at Hastings. She finished fourth, six and three-quarter lengths behind runaway winner Jennifer Eccles, while Loire wound up second and Showbeel was third.
“I thought she went all right in the Lowland for her first time at 2100m,” Lowry said.
“But the worry I have with her going into the Oaks is that she has been a bit keen in her races.
“If Lisa (Allpress) can get her to settle she’s a chance. She has got a high cruising speed and hopefully she can settle handy.”
Lowry and Cullen had no joy in last year’s New Zealand Oaks with Unlaced’s sister Allacciato, who has recently transferred across the Tasman to the stable of Michael Hickmott. But they did pick up a third placing in the 2017 edition with Savvy Dreams, who chased home Bonneval and Devise.
“Savvy Dreams was a better chance than Unlaced is going into the Oaks as she was just beaten by Bonneval in the Lowland,” Lowry said.
“She was a good filly and she went on to run good races in other Group Ones.”
Unlaced’s two wins have been over 1600m and beforehand she was runner-up over 1400m at Rotorua behind Our Alley Cat, a candidate for Saturday’s Gr.2 Wellington Guineas (1400m).
Lowry and Cullen may also start Atlanta Peach at Trentham, in a rating 82 1400m.
“It will all depend on whether there is some give in the ground,” Lowry said.
“She had a nice quiet trial last week and is coming up really well. If she goes well, we’d like to head to a nice race like the Travis Stakes (Gr.2, 2000m) at Te Rapa on April 25.”
A daughter of Bullbars, Atlanta Peach has won five of her 15 starts and twice tried top company last spring when sixth in the Gr.1 Windsor Park Plate (1600m) and eighth in the Gr.1 Livamol Classic (2040m).
Lowry is also looking forward to getting Group One winner Wait A Sec to the Gr.2 City of Palmerston North Awapuni Gold Cup (2000m) at Awapuni later this month and the Listed Power Farming Hawke’s Bay Cup (2200m) on his home track on April 11 despite him finishing last over 1600m behind Sherrif at Trentham on Saturday and beating only one horse home in four starts this season.
“It was too tough for him with 61.5kgs on Saturday and he drops to 55kgs in the Awapuni Gold Cup,” Lowry said.
“We’ve had to send him around because he needed it. We’ve been putting the pressure on him to get his fitness up.”
Wait A Sec hasn’t won for two years, since taking the Wairoa Cup (2100m) in February 2018, and has battled tendon problems, but Lowry is hopeful he can recapture some of the form which saw him win the Livamol Classic and the 2018 Gr.3 Anniversary Handicap (1600m) at Trentham.
Lowry and Cullen are in the rebuilding stage with their team of 25 horses, having seen the retirement to stud of smart mare Xpression, a Group Two winner whose placings included a third in the Gr.1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m).
“The Telegraph was her last race and she’s in foal to Snitzel,” Lowry said.
“I thought she went well and would have liked to be able to race her longer, but that wasn’t possible.
“Now we’re left with mainly a very young team and many of them haven’t even had a jump-out yet. Hopefully we can find another good one.” - NZ Racing Desk