Trainer Stephen McKee has sounded a warning to his rivals ahead of the G1 Makfi Challenge Stakes at Hastings on Saturday.
McKee feels (King) Mufhasa will be going into the race slightly better than when successful last year. The Pentire gelding will be attempting to record his 10th Group 1 victory in the 1400m feature event on the first day of the Hawke’s Bay Spring Carnival.
McKee said the former NZ Horse of the Year resumed work two weeks earlier this time in and is subsequently slightly more forward than last year. “We’ve got him ready slightly sooner and he’s really good in himself,” McKee said. “There will certainly no excuses on the score of fitness on Saturday.”
McKee followed the same path as last year by giving Mufhasa an exhibition gallop between races at Ruakaka last Wednesday week. The eight-year-old worked over 1000 metres and was timed to run the last 800 in 50.53s and final 600 in 38.01s. He didn’t appear all that happy in the slow track and that’s McKee’s only concern going into Saturday’s opener.
The Hastings track was rated a Slow 8 on Tuesday morning and more rain fell on Wednesday and Thursday but the forecast is for fine weather and the racing surface will be no worse than a Slow 7 on Saturday.
Mufhasa (NZ) won last year’s Makfi Challenge Stakes on a track that was rated a Slow 7 at the start of the day but had dried out to be a Dead 5 by the time the race came up for decision. He has won twice on the Hastings in the past, both times over 1400 metres, and has also been placed on two other occasions there in Group 1 events.
The horse’s pet distance is 1400 metres, with 16 starts resulting in 5 wins and 6 placings. McKee said Mufhasa’s barrier five is ideal as it should allow rider Samantha Spratt to position the horse in the first three or four in the running and give him every possible chance.