Florence Jean, who has won her two previous Ruakaka starts by a combined 10.5 lengths, resumes there tomorrow.
Black-type performer Florence Jean returns to action tomorrow at Ruakaka – the scene of both of her previous victories.
The three-year-old daughter of Pins has had eight starts for two wins and three placings, including a second to top filly Dijon Bleu in the Gr. 3 Gold Trail Stakes at Hastings. She has also finished sixth in the Gr. 2 Matamata Breeders’ Stakes and Gr. 3 Bonecrusher Stakes.
Tomorrow’s $30,000 Bay Of Islands ITM 1200 will be Florence Jean’s first start since January 14. She is unbeaten in her two previous visits to Ruakaka, winning by four and a half lengths on debut in January of last year and by six lengths in the two-year-old race at this meeting last year.
“We’re really just giving her a run this weekend,” owner-trainer John Morell warned. “I don’t think she’ll be far enough forward, and I think she might blow out in the last bit.
“I hope she goes alright, and maybe she’ll prove me wrong and run really well. But we’re not expecting too much first-up.
“She was a bit disappointing towards the end of her last campaign and we had some trouble with her feet. This is a nice chance to get her back to the races, see how she goes and get a bit of a line on her. Then we can start making some other plans.”
To be ridden by premiership-leading jockey Sam Collett, Florence Jean is currently rated a $2.90 second favourite behind the local Not Usual Heart ($1.90), who has won her last two.
Morell’s other runner at Ruakaka tomorrow is the talented three-year-old Steven James. The son of Ekraar ran second in each of his first two starts, then finished a close sixth in the Gr. 2 Waikato Guineas in his only other start – five lengths from the first pair, Xbox and Mongolianconqueror.
Steven James is a $7 chance in the $22,500 Fell Engineering Special Conditions – a competitive 1600-metre race with seven horses currently paying between $6 and $9.
“He hasn’t been doing badly, and he’s probably a bit more forward than the filly,” Morell said. “He doesn’t carry as much condition as her.
“He should hopefully find a nice race, and we’ll find out where we are with him. It’s a little bit hard starting up over a mile, but the money’s pretty good and we thought we might as well have a go. We can always drop back again afterwards if he doesn’t run well, but hopefully he will.”
Jonathan Riddell will take the mount on Steven James.