Banchee Primed for Tauranga Feature

James McDonald is using former eight-time Group One winner Mufhasa (NZ) (Pentire) as his measuring stick in sourcing confidence for his ride on Banchee (NZ) (Oratorio) in tomorrow's feature race at Tauranga.

The crack Cambridge jockey, a key figure for tomorrow's NZ$650,000 Pick6 at the track, is approaching his ride on the John Sargent-trained Group One winner Banchee (NZ) in the Crockford Real Estate with keen anticipation.

Banchee (NZ)

"She'll go super if the track's good enough,'' McDonald said yesterday.

"That's what she's waiting for and that's why she was pulled out of the Rich Hill Mile last weekend.

"Sarge said he had her primed and ready to win to win the Rich Hill Mile too but she came out when the track was bad, so you'd think she'd be pretty much primed and ready to win this race at Tauranga.''

Banchee (NZ) has won six of her 19 starts, winning both the Group Two Matamata Breeders' Stakes and the Group One Diamond Stakes at Ellerslie to become the champion two-year-old of her season.

Her best win last season was the Karaka Three-Year-Old Mile at Ellerslie but she has remained competitive in strong company throughout.

She began her current campaign with a soft Rating 90 win at Taupo before finishing a creditable eighth in the Group One Myer Classic (1600m) at Flemington, fourth in the Group Two Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders' Stakes (1400m) at Pukekohe and sixth to Mufhasa (NZ) in the Group One Captain Cook Stakes (1600m) at Trentham last month.

"There was only 2kg between her and Mufhasa in the Captain Cook Stakes, yet she's in on the 54kg minimum on Saturday and getting 5kg off a horse like Run Like Al,'' McDonald said.

"Back to handicap conditions - it's her go. She's thrown in at the weights. The hardest one to beat is probably Sarge's other horse, Sadist.''

Sargent has three horses engaged in the feature, with Better Together (NZ) (Volksraad) completing the trio, dropping back in distance as she prepares for the Group Two Wellington Cup (2400m) at Trentham next month.

Sargent said she would have her Cup leadup in either the Listed Marton Cup (2200m) at Awapuni tomorrow week or in the Group Three Trentham Stakes (2100m) the following week.

Both Banchee (NZ) and Sadist (Tale of the Cat) will have their next starts in the Group One Thorndon Mile at Trentham on January 28.

"They missed a run at Ellerslie last week with the wet track,'' Sargent said.

"Better Together is looking for further but there's not a lot between the other two. Banchee and Sadist are hard to split.

"Banchee's a good, proven mare, whereas Sadist is a real up-and-comer and I thought his run for second behind Veyron was very good. But they are all going well.''

NZTM Update, Friday 6 January 2012