While the New Zealanders are crossing the Tasman to plunder Australian races, Azuro will be out to reverse the trend in the Auckland Cup.
The Jamie Richards-trained Probabeel and Te Akau Shark took out Sydney’s first two autumn carnival Group One races at Randwick on Saturday, the Surround and Chipping Norton Stakes.
Azuro will be Ciaron Maher’s first New Zealand runner when he heads to Saturday’s Auckland Cup, one of three Group One races in Australasia over 3200 metres.
Maher, who trains Azuro in partnership with David Eustace, says the distance of Saturday’s race at Ellerslie is ideal for the former French stayer.
Azuro won the Sandown Cup (3200m) in November with his two previous wins in Australia at the same distance in the Stayers Cup at Rosehill in June and the Queensland Cup in Brisbane the following month.
“He’s got some record at the two miles, so we’re going to take him across the ditch and head to New Zealand for the Cup,” Maher said.
Azuro has had two starts since winning the Sandown Cup, finishing third in the Bagot Handicap (2800m) at Flemington on New Year’s Day before running seventh over 2400m at Warwick Farm on January 27.
“His last run he made a mid-race move which probably wasn’t ideal, but he’s going well and when he gets to this trip you know he’ll run well,” Maher said.
“He seems to handle all types of going. He has been up a while but he’s one of those European horses that will really appreciate it.”
Maher said Azuro might return to Sydney following the New Zealand trip and then go to Queensland.
“We could go to Sydney but there’s some good money in Queensland,” Maher said.
“We’ll just see how he comes though this, but everything is on the cards at this stage.”
Maher had earlier in the year considered taking two-year-old Toscanini to New Zealand for the Karaka Million at Ellerslie in January.
Those plans were abandoned after Toscanini finished fourth on debut at Geelong earlier that month.
“He got a bit lost then closed hard, but didn’t win,” Maher said.
Toscanini went on to finish fourth behind Hanseatic in a Blue Diamond Preview at Caulfield on January 25 before finishing fifth to Ole Kirk in the Talindert Stakes at Flemington on February 15.