Trainer Stephen McKee said Cox Plate winner Pinker Pinker was the horse who could prevent on-pacer King Mufhasa from claiming his ninth Group One victory in the Futurity Stakes at Caulfield on Saturday.
“I think he’ll run very well,” McKee said.
“Obviously I’m very aware of Pinker Pinker.
“Any horse who wins the Cox Plate is very good and her overall form is top class so if we can stave her off we should be okay.”
New Zealand’s best-performed galloper is on a hit-and-run mission in the Futurity as he was last spring when he came to Melbourne for just the one run and duly went home the winner of the Group One Toorak Hcp (1600m) at Caulfield.
Carrying topweight of 58kg the Pentire seven-year-old, ridden by Michael Rodd, was too good for King’s Rose, Luen Yat Forever and Wall Street to land his first Australian win.
Nash Rawiller, who won last year’s Futurity aboard More Joyous, will ride King Mufhasa for the first time.
King Mufhasa ran fourth in the race last year when ridden by Kiwi jockey Samantha Spratt who has won 11 races on him including seven Group Ones.
McKee said the gelding would travel to Sydney on Sunday night before being flown back to New Zealand on Monday.
“We’ll probably come back for a couple of races in Sydney – the George Ryder and the All-Aged Stakes,” he said.
The gelding beat Vonusti when he won the Group One Captain Cook Stakes (1600m) at Trentham on December 3.
He resumed after a 10-week let-up when runner-up to Veyron in the Group One Waikato Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa on February 11.
“He’s come through that race really well and I couldn’t be happier with him leading into this race,” McKee said.
“The run of the race went against him in that race. He was caught three wide facing the breeze the whole trip and it took a very good horse in the making to beat him so I was very pleased with the run.”
The winner of 17 races from 48 starts and $2.2 million in prizemoney has drawn barrier six in a field reduced to nine runners after the scratchings of last year’s third placegetter Dao Dao and Doubtful Jack.
King Mufhasa is $2.60 favourite with TAB Sportsbet ahead of Pinker Pinker ($3.60), Playing God ($5) with Wall Street at $8 and Elusive City colt Adamantium best of the rest at $17.
Trainer Danny O’Brien said Adamantium was a big, gross three-year-old who needed to run to have him “cherry ripe” for next Saturday’s Group One $755,000 Australian Guineas (1600m) at Flemington.
“If he could be top four or five it would put him in the mix for the Guineas,” O’Brien said.
“If he won I’d be very happy, he’d be favourite for the Guineas.”