HYLAND RACE COLOURS HANDICAP Tips (Race 2)
Canterbury Best Bet - Race 2 No. 3 April Rain
It was hard to miss the January 3 debut of this Chris Waller-trained filly who found the 1100m of that event too sharp, which was evident when coming off the bit early, but was the clear pick of those chasing the winner Quantico (since won two more races) where she only missed by half a length on the line.
Given plenty of time to mature, April Rain has trialled well twice in readiness for this return assignment where firstly, she was strong past the line in a Rosehill heat prior to her December 15 trial at Canterbury which admittedly wasn't in great time but after settling outside the leader, cruised away under her own steam for an easy win.
By Pierro and out of a Group Two winning mare in Faith Hill, this four-year-old is bred to prosper over more ground in time but given they're going straight to the 1250m (her debut was at 1100m) first-up, I suspect the intent is to win fresh.
ANZ BLOODSTOCK NEWS HANDICAP Tips (Race 4)
Canterbury Next Best Bet - Race 4 No. 2 Merlinite
Looking to break a run of outs which dates back to Australia Day, 2020 is this mare from the John O'Shea yard, a stable that has enjoyed good success at Canterbury over the last 12 months with eight winners on this circuit at a strike rate of 25%.
Although she's more comfortable if the going doesn't creep into the Heavy range, Merlinite is adept on most surfaces and is banging down off her two runs this preparation where after closing off from the rear fresh (beat home Criminal Code who has franked the form), was unlucky not to win on December 11 as she was held-up at key stages in that half-length defeat.
The daughter of Pierro strips fitter with that 1900m effort now under the belt and the key here will be what 2kg claiming apprentice Tom Sherry does early from a good gate, as they need to be more positive now, especially in this contest which does appear a little light on for early speed.
KIA EVENING STAR Tips (Race 7)
Canterbury Roughie - Race 7 No. 9 Isorich
Traditionally a hard galloper to catch for punters, but a marvel for connections this veteran has been over a long journey, with more than $700,000 prize money accrued over an incredible 123 start career and in a weak version of the Kia Evening Star, he's not hopeless.
Another galloper that won't want any downgrades in the track, Isorich can be hit or miss, which is reflective in his odds but is a dual city winner in 2020 and he was hard to miss at Newcastle last start when making good inroads from an uncustomary rearward position.
Aside from Super Contender, who is yet to fire this campaign, there's very little quality in this field and with just 53.5kg after the Cejay Graham claim, Isorich can hopefully kick-up early, use the rail from barrier one and give cheek in a contest that he's more than capable of figuring in.
TAB HANDICAP Tips (Race 8)
Canterbury Value Bet - Race 8 No. 9 Maui Girl
By Lope de Vega and of the mare Run For Naara (winner at 2000m/placed in a Rosehill Guineas & Oaks), Maui Girl a lightly raced mare who after a long layoff, resumed with a pair of wins at the Provincials back in the autumn before coming to town.
The five-year-old encountered a string of heavy tracks following that and given the Soft 6 tilt at the back-end of the campaign was her most competitive, albeit that did coincide with a stop back to Benchmark 70 level, it still suggested that really testing conditions aren't to her liking.
After catching they eye fresh at 1200m, Maui Girl improved further at seven furlongs on December 19 where despite looking a little flat-footed visually in the run home, it was a performance that indicated this step up in trip would suit and back in grade, is very well placed here providing there's no track downgrades on the current Soft 7 reading.