Courtesy Ford Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes contender The Fugitive will head a four-strong team at Awapuni tomorrow for Hastings trainer John Bary.

The Fugitive carries the colours of his breeders and part-owners, Richard and Liz Wood’s Chouxmaani Investments.

The same owner-trainer combination finished third in the Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes nine years ago with Jimmy Choux, who later won the New Zealand 2000 Guineas, New Zealand Derby, Rosehill Guineas, Windsor Park Plate and Spring (Livamol) Classic and was second in a Cox Plate.

The Fugitive has had two starts, scoring a dominant front-running win at Awapuni on December 22 before finishing second to Louis Luck at Trentham the following month.

“He came up shin sore after Trentham and we just had to put him aside for a while,” Bary told today.

“We brought him back, and since then he’s been going through a few growing pains and things like that, so it’s been a bit hard to get good gallops into him.

“We managed to give him two really good gallops last week, especially last Saturday, and he’s come through that really well.

“We’re fully aware that we’re going into this Saturday on a short run-up, but they’re only two once and it’s a Group One. We believe he deserves a shot at it.

“He’s got a wide draw (10), so we’ll drop back from here and hopefully take one shot at them in the straight.”

The Fugitive is by Wanted, an Australian-based son of Fastnet Rock.

He will be ridden by Chris Johnson tomorrow and is rated a $26 chance. The Gr. 1 Sistema Stakes winner Yourdeel is the $2 favourite, followed by Aalaalune ($5.50), Equinox ($7.50), Holy Mongolemperor ($9), Aretha ($10) and Bavella ($11).

Bary’s other black-type runner is The Bandito in the Listed Bramco Granite & Marble Flying Handicap.

After impressive performances to win at Trentham and place at Awapuni, the Pins gelding was a last-start ninth behind Podravina on New Zealand Derby day at Ellerslie.

“I was disappointed with the ride at Auckland last time, but his form before that was good,” Bary said. “Sam Collett is back on this weekend, and she rode him nicely to win at Trentham a couple of starts back.

“He’s going into the race in good order. He’s up in class, but he’s an honest horse and this is a nice chance to have a go at some black type.

“There doesn’t seem to be an obvious leader in the race, and he likes to roll forward.”

The Bandito is a $26 chance in a market headed by the defending Flying Handicap champion Magnum at $3. Tomelilla ($6), Beefeater ($6.50), Calligraphy ($7), Sweepstake ($7) and Monrecour ($8.50) are the others in single figures.

Bary’s other runners are Heart Of Stone in the $30,000 The Oaks Stud/Hong Kong JC Trophy 3YO and She’s A Ripper in the last race on the card, the LJ Hooker Premier.

Heart Of Stone, a Swiss Ace filly raced by breeder Gerry Harvey, ran second to Lincoln Falls on debut before scoring a four-length maiden win at Woodville two weeks ago.

“She won well last start in good time (1:09.18 for 1200m), and to my eye she’s improved again since then,” Bary said.

“She’s responded well to that race, both mentally and physically. Her work’s been good and we’ve got the ace draw this weekend. She’s up against some stiffer competition this time, but she’s an improving filly and this is a nice next step for her.”

Heart Of Stone is rated a $5 chance, sharing second favouritism with Mr Universe. Cavallo Veloce is the $2.70 favourite.

Meanwhile, She’s A Ripper is dropping back to 1400 metres following a last-start fourth over 2000 metres.

“She just won’t settle, so we’re dropping her right back in distance,” Bary said. “The last time we tried that distance was last month at Awapuni, where they ran 1:22 and she was a really nice fifth and only a length off them.

“Sam Collett has ridden her well in the past and is back on tomorrow. We’re just trying to get her to settle. She’s certainly capable on her day, but she’s going to need to improve her racing manners to be a winning chance on a Premier raceday.”

She’s A Ripper is at $35 in a market headed by the promising Deerfield ($3.60).