Ocean Emperor looked ready to defend his Tauranga Stakes title when he galloped impressively at Matamata this morning.

Working 22 metres out on a dead course proper, Ocean Emperor (Fawcett) appeared to enjoy himself as he strode over 1200m in 1:22.5, building momentum for a final 1000m in 1:06.9 and 600m in 38.6. The Gary Hennessy-trained entire has trained on well from his recent win at Awapuni and will be the horse to beat as he attempt to repeat last year’s win in the feature event at Tauranga this weekend, when he will be ridden by Dylan Turner.

Bocce (Bayliss) also shape up well for Tauranga when completing 1200m in 1:19.7, 1:05.3 and 37.2, while stablemate The Boy Wonder (Bayliss) got into his work over the same ground in 1:16.8, 1:02.5 and 37.5. Tauranga entries Sunburst (Lammas) and Vermont (A Jones) strode over 1200m in 1:20.2, 1:05.4 and 37.9.

On the all-weather track, New Zealand 1000 Guineas candidate Easy M’Lady (R Jones) impressed with the way she got through her final gallop in company with Battle Royal (Danis). The Vicki Prendergast-trained filly was travelling strongly alongside her stablemate at the end of 1200m in 1:18.9, with the last 1000m in 1:02.3 and 600m in 37.2.

On the sand, where the timing of a number of early gallops was compromised by fog, Embellish (Miller) shaded his maiden companion Lo Schiaffo (Costin) at the end of a smart 1000m in 1:02.5. No sectional time was possible, but Embellish hit the line well ahead of his Tauranga 1400-metre engagement.

Cha Siu Bao (Yanagida) and Voler Pour Moi (Danis) also impressed ahead of Tauranga as they cut out 1200m in 1:15.2 and 1000m in 1:01.8. Ca Si Bao is coming to hand well after returning from a long layoff.

Designed To Impress (S McKay) and Barzellar (Lammas) left 1000m behind in 1:02.8, while Mav (C Cole) and Lady Davone (S Collett) ran the same distance in 1:02.9 and 36.2, The Mitigator (S McKay) 1:05.2 and 37, and Beau Marche (Miller) 1:03 and 36.5.

Laaffaire (K Jones) and Garados (A Jones) were paired over 1000m in 1:08.4 and 600m in 37.5. Stakes-placed former South Island mare Laaffaire will be an interesting runner at Tauranga in her first start for Stephen Autridge.

Virtuoso Lad (Tynan) covered 1000m in 1:04.4 and 36.2, while fellow Ruakaka Friday entry Bravissimo (Fawcett) followed in 1:03.2 and 37.4. Tauranga candidate Code Cracker (Coleman) went with Akaba (Bayliss) over 1200m in 1:18.6 and 1000m in 1:04.2.

Le Sablier (A Jones) looked bright in her work over 1000m in 1:07.2 and 38.5, and Mahalo (Handley) ran the same distance in 1:09.2. Gold Spice (Hashizume) was keen over 1200m in 1:15.8 and 1000m in 1:03.6, while Tiptronic (Handley) returned 1:23.8 for 1200m and 41 for his final 600m.

Dennis Ryan