Trainer Lance Noble is hopeful his Auckland Cup contender Annie Higgins will find her best now she is being reunited with a rider who knows her quirks.
Annie Higgins has finished outside the placings in her four lead-ups to the $500,000 Auckland Cup on Wednesday, partly due to bad luck, but Noble says the booking of Leith Innes, who won the Counties Cup aboard the mare in November, could help turn her form around.
“For various reasons we haven’t been able to get Leith on her in recent times,” Noble said.
“It takes a ride or two to know her idiosyncrasies, and she runs really well for Leith so that should be a big help.”
Annie Higgins finished sixth in the Avondale Cup won by Who Shot Thebarman after getting stuck on the rail, something she probably won’t have to worry about after drawing barrier 16 for the Auckland Cup.
She could only finish ninth in the race last year in her first attempt at 3200m but Noble said she was better prepared for this year’s race.
“Last year she was coming through the grades in spring and she ran like a horse that had one run too many,” Noble said.
“This year we’ve always had this race in mind for her.”
TAB bookies remain wary of Annie Higgins, making her fifth favourite at $12 on Tuesday.
Who Shot Thebarman is the $2.40 favourite in New Zealand ahead of two Australian-trained visitors, Celtic Prince ($6.50) and topweight Travolta ($7.50).
Travolta ran sixth in the New Zealand Derby to Silent Achiever two years ago and has won four and been placed nine times in 17 starts for Gai Waterhouse’s stable.
“He still has some New Zealand owners and we’ve had this race in mind for some time,” Waterhouse’s racing manager Adrian Bott said.
“He travelled over nicely, he’s in good form and he was very strong to the line at the end of 2500m at his last start at Moonee Valley.”
Celtic Prince has to overcome the widest barrier in the 20-horse field if he is to give trainer Bjorn Baker a Group One homecoming.