It’s one all between Callsign Mav and Avantage this season, and the Gr.1 El Cheapo Cars Weight-For-Age Classic (1600m) at Otaki on Saturday is set to decide the deadlock between the pair.
Callsign Mav was an upset victor when taking out the Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) on the opening day of the Hawke’s Bay Spring Carnival last year, while Avantage evened the score at Te Rapa earlier this month when winning the Gr.1 BCD Group Sprint (1400m).
Callsign Mav’s trainer John Bary was pleased with his gelding’s runner-up effort at Te Rapa, particularly with the sectional times he ran.
“He ran the fastest 800, 600, 400, and 200m in the race. It was the fastest 200m of the day, quicker than Levante who missed the start,” he said.
“He (Callsign Mav) got the sweet trip on the first day of the carnival and beat her, she was three-wide. The other day she (Avantage) got the sweet trip and we were second. It’s one all and let’s go again.”
The Group One feature has only attracted seven starters, but Bary said there is still plenty of quality in the field.
“It’s not a huge field, but Avantage is obviously in there, and Shadows Cast and Travelling Light are both Group One winners, so you can’t poo-poo them,” he said.
“Deerfield is racing well, so you take any other horse at your own peril, but at the end of the day all I can do is worry about my horse, and he is fit and well, and ready to rumble.
“He is happy and his work has been good. He had a good hit-out in town (Hastings) on the course proper on Monday.”
After the weekend, Bary is eyeing the Gr.2 City Of Palmerston North Awapuni Gold Cup (2000m) with Callsign Mav.
“All going well there is a 2000m race at Awapuni on April 3,” Bary said. “We want to stretch him out for that to see if we can open up some more doors for him in the spring.”
TAB bookmakers have installed Callsign Mav a $5 second favourite for Saturday’s Group One, behind Avantage at $1.25.
Earlier on the card, Bary will line-up stablemate Kaluanui in the Vets On Riverbank 3 & 4YO (2100m), with her performance dictating whether she presses on to the Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand Oaks (2400m) at Trentham next month.
The daughter of Sacred Falls beat just one runner home in the Gr.3 New Zealand Bloodstock Desert Gold Stakes (1600m) last month, but Bary said she had been suffering from some foot issues.
“We had a few problems with her foot, but they have seemed to come right,” he said. “She seems really well, but she is up against it with Springsteen and Aquila Star.
“If we think we want to push on to the Oaks then we want to be either winning or running very close to those few horses.
“It’s a nice gauge to see how we sit.”