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Trans-Tasman focus for Baker and Forsman

Cambridge trainers Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman have their sights set on black-type targets on both sides of the Tasman in the coming weeks.

On Saturday they will be represented by The Chosen One  in the Gr.3 Manion Cup (2400m) at Rosehill and Vin De Dance in the Gr.2 Ultimate Mazda Japan Trophy (1600m) at Tauranga.

Measures introduced by Australia and New Zealand this week to contain the spread of coronavirus have created challenges for trans-Tasman racing campaigns, but the Baker-Forsman team is well equipped to cope.

"We've got Aleisha (Legg) over there, and she knows the ropes as well as anyone," Forsman said.

"She's been on a few of these trips now and has a really good handle on things, so the horses are in very good hands."

The Chosen One stormed home for fourth in the Gr.1 Australian Derby (2400m) during last year's Sydney autumn carnival, then won the Gr.3 Frank Packer Plate (2000m). He added the Gr.2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) at Caulfield in the spring.

After a bold first-up placing in the Gr.1 Haunui Farm WFA Classic (1600m) at Otaki, the son of Savabeel tailed the field home in the Listed Randwick City Stakes (2000m) on March 7.

"It was a bit of an upside-down race for him," Forsman said. "He was probably ridden a little bit too aggressively in the early part of the race. We're happy to forgive him for that run. He seems bright and well, so we'll press on into this weekend.

"We're taking heart from the fact that he ran a bit flat second-up in his last preparation in the Underwood (1800m), then stepped up to 1 1⁄2 m with blinkers on and won the Herbert Power. It's the same scenario again this weekend, although we'd ideally like to see the track improve a bit from Heavy 8."

Meanwhile, talented three-year-old Quick Thinker is being aimed at the Gr.2 Tulloch Stakes (2000m) on March 28 after his creditable third behind star fillies Funstar and Probabeel in last weekend's Gr.2 Phar Lap Stakes (1500m).

"He was very game and just beaten by a couple of really good fillies," Forsman said. "He's come through that well. The original plan was to head to the Tulloch for his second start in Sydney, and I think that's where we'll be heading."

The Tulloch has been an outstanding race for Baker Racing, having previously won it with Our Palliser (1987), The Bill (1993), Harris Tweed (2009) and Jon Snow (2017).

This year's Sydney contingent could be joined next week by True Enough. The son of Nom du Jeu has been one of New Zealand's breakthrough performers this season, winning the Gr.1 Zabeel Classic (2000m), Gr.2 Coupland's Bakeries Mile (1600m) and Gr.3 Spring Sprint (1400m).

He placed in all of his other four starts, including the Gr.1 Captain Cook Stakes (1600m), Gr.1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) and Gr.1 New Zealand Stakes (2000m).

"He's certainly a chance to head over," Forsman said. "We'll just see how he does this week. If we're happy with his work, he may fly over on Monday and run in the Tancred Stakes (Gr.1, 1 1⁄2 m) on Saturday week."

Back home, the 2018 New Zealand Derby (2400m) winner Vin De Dance will return from a summer break in Saturday's Tauranga feature. His last start was a fourth placing in the Gr.3 Waikato Cup (2400m) in December.

"He's had a nice freshen-up and seems to have come back in good order," Forsman said. "He's going to need the run this weekend, but we thought it was a nice race to start off in under set weights and penalties conditions.

"We had been thinking about a Brisbane campaign with him, but that's up in the air now with the way things are at the moment. We'll have to wait and see."

The stable's Tauranga team on Saturday also features Aretha and Birdsong.

Aretha won last year's Gr.2 Matamata Breeders' Stakes (1200m) and placed at Group One level, but has been unplaced in three starts since winning the Gr.3 Gold Trail Stakes (1200m) in September.

"She was very disappointing fresh up in the Mufhasa Stakes (Listed, 1300m)," Forsman said. "She's not racing as well as we know she can. We've changed a few things to try to see if we can get her back into some form. We'll see what happens this weekend, although she's going to have to carry a fair lump of weight (61kgs)."

Snitzel filly Birdsong has won three of her four starts, most recently a stylish first-up performance at Avondale on March 6.

"She was impressive," Forsman said. "It's probably fair to say it wasn't a great field, but it's never easy for a three-year-old filly against older horses, and she did it really well. She has to do the same thing again this weekend, and it'll be interesting to see how she handles the step up to 1600 metres.

"She could be a candidate to head down to Riccarton for some black-type assignments in a few weeks' time."

Riccarton hosts the Listed NZB Insurance Stakes (1600m) on April 4 and the Listed New Zealand Bloodstock Warstep Stakes (2000m) two weeks later.

Meanwhile, another daughter of Snitzel is set to carry the stable's hopes in the Gr.1 Manawatu Sires' Produce Stakes (1400m) at Awapuni on March 28.

Safe Passage will step straight up to the big time after a dazzling win on debut at Matamata last Wednesday, where she outclassed her opposition by three and three-quarter lengths.

"At this stage we want to give her that chance at Group One level," Forsman said. "We're very much on track for that at the moment, and as long as we're happy with her through the next week, that's where we'll go."

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