Group 1 winning mares Guiseppina (NZ) and Shez Sinsational (NZ) will renew their rivalry in the G2 Cal Isuzu Stakes (1600m) at Te Rapa on Saturday.
The weight-for-age fillies and mares event is their first clash since finishing first and second in the G1 Spring Classic (2040m) at Hastings in October.
Shez Sinsational came out on top by a half a length that day and, while trainer Steven Ramsay has his sights set on squaring the ledger on Saturday, the race also looms as a key race in determining which summer Group 1 feature the Johar mare targets.
“I’m actually not too sure what Guiseppina will do, to be honest,” Ramsay said earlier this week. “There’s obviously the Zabeel Classic at Ellerslie coming up but there’s also the Telegraph Handicap and the Thorndon at Trentham.
“She’s been Group 1 placed at 1200, 1400, 1600 and 2000 metres, so this race will guide us as to where we go next.”
The contrasting targets of the Group 1 weight-for-age Zabeel Classic at 2000 metres on Boxing Day and the Group 1 Telegraph Handicap, a 1200 metre handicap, underlines just how versatile Guiseppina has become over the past twelve months.
Guiseppina travelled to Trentham for last Saturday’s Group 1 Captain Cook Stakes but was withdrawn when the track came up a Slow 7 and, although the track was upgraded to a Dead 6 later in the day, Ramsay was comfortable with the decision not to run.
“If it came up a dead track at the start, we probably would have kept her in, but the trip away has tightened her up a wee bit, which has been good,” Ramsay said.
As well as the extra conditioning from a float trip to Wellington and back, Guiseppina’s form has been made to look all the stronger through the Captain Cook Stakes as well. The Trentham feature was taken out by Canterbury mare Final Touch, who had chased Guiseppina home in last month’s G2 Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes at Pukekohe, where the pair finished fourth and third respectively.
“Even though Counties has got quite a long straight, they don’t seem to come from that far back there, so for her to finish into third from near last in running was a pretty good effort,” Ramsay said. “Stepping up to a mile, Saturday’s race looks ideal for her. She’s done everything right leading up to this one and the forecast looks good, so hopefully we’ll get quite a nice track there.”