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McKay sticks to northern focus
28 Oct 2016

Peter McKay's focus will remain in the north after withdrawing talented three-year-old Barcelo from next week's Gr. 1 Sothys New Zealand 2000 Guineas at Riccarton.

Instead his trio of Antonio Lombardo, Amarula and Barcelo will tackle northern features in the coming weeks.

Multiple Group One performer Antonio Lombardo will cap his lead-up for the Gr. 2 Tauranga Stakes on November 12 when he contests Saturday's Chesters Plumbing and Bathroom Handicap at the same track.

"Hopefully he can win it. He likes Tauranga and it's a bit of a come-down for him, running in a $15,000 race," McKay said.

"I had looked at running him at Te Rapa last Monday, but I had Amarula in there and I thought it was best to split them. If he goes well on Saturday, he can go back to Tauranga for that weight-for-age race in a couple of weeks. He seems pretty bright."

Amarula finished second to Thee Auld Hussie at Te Rapa on Monday, beaten a length and three-quarters while giving the winner a 4.5kg advantage. He could still clash with his stablemate in the Tauranga Stakes.

"The other option I'm toying with is throwing in a nomination for the weight-for-age race at Ellerslie next Tuesday. I've been wanting to get him up to 2000 metres, but we'll just see," McKay said.

With both Amarula and Antonio Lombardo sitting in the mid-to-high 90s with their ratings, weight-for-age racing looks the most suitable option, as McKay said Antonio Lombardo had struggled to regain winning form carrying big weights in handicaps.

"He's been racing well but he's in a situation now that he's lugging a bit of weight and he's only a little horse. He's not just quite there taking on the best company and having to give the other horses weight," McKay said.

Nonetheless, Antonio Lombardo did place in the Gr. 3 Spring Sprint at Hastings earlier this month under 59.5 kilograms and six previous visits to Tauranga have yielded two wins and three placings.

McKay said Barcelo would most likely have his next start in the 1400-metre three-year-old race at Tauranga on November 12 ahead of the Listed Trevor Eagle Memorial (1500m) at Ellerslie on November 26.