Waverley mare Glory Days will be on trial for the Auckland Cup when she lines up for the first time at Ellerslie in Saturday’s Avondale Cup.

Waverley raider Glory Days will have her first look around Ellerslie in Saturday’s Gr. 2 Coca-Cola Avondale Cup, with the Gr. 1 Auckland Cup looming large on her horizon.

The Red Giant mare has been a revelation in central districts staying ranks this season, winning five races including the Listed Wanganui Cup.

Freshened after being checked out of contention in the Gr. 3 Manawatu Cup in December, Glory Days resumed with a strong-finishing second to Flamingo in the Listed Wairarapa Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes on Waitangi Day. Now all roads lead to the Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup on March 9.

“She needs this run, so it is what it is. I’m hoping she’ll handle it alright.”

“It was a very good performance last week, I was really pleased to see her get home so well,” trainer Bill Thurlow said.

“She seems to have come through that run in great order. She’s looking well and I’m really happy with her.

“It’ll be good to give her a run at Ellerslie in the Avondale Cup this weekend. It’s a bit of a concern going straight from 1600 to 2400 metres, but we’re just running out of time a little bit as far as the Auckland Cup is concerned. She needs this run, so it is what it is. I’m hoping she’ll handle it alright.”

Glory Days will be ridden on Saturday by Sam Collett. The TAB currently rates her a $10 third favourite for the Auckland Cup, with Charles Road and Five To Midnight sharing the top spot at $6.

Five To Midnight finished second in last year’s Auckland Cup, beaten by a mere nose by Ladies First.

The Domesday gelding has won three races this season, including the Listed Feilding Gold Cup in the spring and an impressive last-start performance under 60 kilograms in the $100,000 Karaka Cup at Ellerslie.

“It was a great win last start, very pleasing to see,” trainer Lisa Latta said. “He went out to the paddock for a few days after that race and has freshened up nicely. He’s in really good order heading into this weekend.”

Five To Midnight will be ridden by Jonathan Riddell this weekend. He will be equal topweight in the Avondale Cup with 59 kilograms, but the set weights and penalties conditions of the Auckland Cup will see him drop to 57.5 kilograms.

Sharing the mantle of topweight on Saturday is the multiple stakes winner Chance To Dance, who was a last-start third behind Consensus in last month’s Gr. 3 Trentham Stakes.

“We’re happy with how he’s doing heading into this weekend, but realistically it’s only a lead-up race for the Auckland Cup,” trainer Jamie Richards said.

“It’s a handicap and doesn’t really suit him at all. Once he gets back to set weights and penalties in the Auckland Cup he’ll be much better off, and we think the two miles (3200m) will be up his alley. We’re hoping he’ll be a really good chance there.”

Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman will saddle the promising four-year-olds Mongolian Marshal and Gundown.

Mongolian Marshal won two races last season and performed creditably in the Sydney autumn, finishing fourth in the Gr. 2 Tulloch Stakes and eighth in the Australian Derby.

The High Chaparral gelding has been a strong performer in this campaign, with two wins and a placing in his first three starts before finishing second in the Gr. 3 Counties Cup, first in the Gr. 3 Waikato Cup, third in the Gr. 3 City of Auckland Cup and second in the Karaka Cup.

Gundown, also by High Chaparral, placed in last season’s Gr. 2 Championship Stakes and Gr. 3 Manawatu Classic. His four-year-old campaign has featured a win and three placings from seven starts to date, along with an unlucky fifth in the Karaka Cup.

“They’re nice horses and we’re very happy with both of them heading into this weekend,” Baker said. “They’d probably both appreciate a little bit of rain, but we can’t do much about that. They should run well anyway.”

Mongolian Marshal is high up in the Auckland Cup market at $12, while Gundown is currently rated a $31 chance.

The Shaune Ritchie-trained The Good Fight finished in between that Baker-Forsman pair in the Karaka Cup, running on strongly late in the race for fourth. He had previously scored a dominant three-length win at Te Rapa, beating the subsequent good performers Justamaiz and Prince Jabeel, then came from near last for second in the Dunstan Feeds Stayers’ Championship Final on New Year’s Day.

Hong Kong import Andoyas has run hot and cold this season, scoring two brilliant victories while also finishing last on two occasions. The German-bred eight-year-old tailed the field home in the City of Auckland Cup.

Co-trainer Lance O’Sullivan put that performance down to an error in riding tactics, sitting at the tail of the field throughout the race.

“We got it wrong the way he was ridden last start and next time he will be ridden more positively,” O’Sullivan told NZ Racing Desk.

“He’s still in the Auckland Cup and we’re expecting him to go well in the Avondale Cup.”

South Islander Dee And Gee has been a surprise package this season, landing a $51 upset in the Listed Metropolitan Trophy at Riccarton in the spring and going close to an even bigger boilover in the Wellington Cup. The Darci Brahma mare finished second at 70-to-one, beaten by a nose by Gorbachev.

“It was a really good effort,” said Peter Corbett, who owns and trains the mare in with long-time partner Terrill Charles.

“Although she didn’t quite win it, running second in a big Cup race like that is still a bloody big thrill for us. She did a bit of work during the race and was back in front a stride after the line, so she’s a tough girl.

“She’s earned the right to have a go at a race like the Auckland Cup. We’ll give it a shot and see what happens. Hopefully she can carry on with it.”

Roger That was in strong form through the spring, placing at Matamata and Te Awamutu before winning a 2400-metre race on Counties Cup day at Pukekohe. He defied 20-to-one odds for a close fourth in the Gr. 3 City of Auckland Cup last start.