Trainer John Zielke is chasing another Northern Rivers feature cup win with Future Event at Ballina on Friday but is also looking forward to stepping his two-year-old filly Real Foxy Lady up in distance against older rivals earlier on the eight-race program.
Future Event heads Zielke's five runners at the meeting when he lines up in the $50,000 Slipway Hotel Ballina Summer Cup (1600m). He will also saddle up Real Foxy Lady (1600m Maiden Plate), Cyclone Path (1900m Benchmark 66), Wake Up Sailor (1000m Benchmark 66) and Champagne Garden (1400m Class 2).
Future Event won the $38,000 Murwillumbah Cup (1530m) back in August and also won the $20,000 Mooball Cup (1530m) at the same track in May.
Zielke is confident Future Event will be hard to beat in Friday's race after the four-year-old's emphatic four-length win over odds-on favourite Fomo in a Benchmark 85 Hcp (1666m) at Ipswich last Saturday.
Fomo is well in the market for a $75,000 Open Hcp (1600m) at Eagle Farm this Saturday, a race in which Zielke will saddle up Dreams Aplenty.
"I was a bit surprised to see Fomo on the second line of betting in Saturday's race - Future Event beat him by four lengths the other day and he (Future Event) couldn't beat Dreams Aplenty," said Zielke.
"Even though the track was rated a good4 at Ipswich last week, there was still plenty of 'give' in the surface which was ideal for Future Event and he was far too good for Fomo.
"The track at Ballina (rated a soft5 on Thursday) should also suit him.
"I told (jockey) Anthony Allen not to move on him until well in the straight at Ipswich last week and he followed instructions perfectly. We'll ride him the same way at Ballina.
"And he's a horse who backs up really well and has performed well in the past on a quick back-up.
"This horse has already won some nice races in the Northern Rivers in the past few months - the Murwillumbah Cup and the Mooball Cup - and was also narrowly beaten in the Lismore Cup (on September 20).
Future Event wins easily at Ipswich on January 12
"He does have to carry 59kg, but weight doesn't seem to worry this horse, so I'm not too concerned.
"I think all of my five runners at the meeting are capable of at least getting into the top three in their races. We're certainly due for a change of luck as things haven't gone to plan a few times in recent weeks."
Zielke warned punters not to underestimate the chances of his two-year-old filly Real Foxy Lady who has her second race start against older horses in the Ace Ohlsson Bangalow Maiden Plate (1600m).
The Real Saga-Lasoron filly made her debut with a 9.3 length seventh to Stampe over 1110m at Doomben on January 9 but Zielke is expecting to see a major improvement when she steps out to the 1600m at Ballina.
"She's a full-sister to the Group One-placed Sagaronne (runner-up to Press Statement in the 2015 J J Aitkins (1600m) at Doomben) and is a filly who I think is going to be city class down the track and could have a nice race in her over 2000m to 2400m," said Zielke.
"The 1110m on debut was way too short for her, but the mile on Friday will be ideal - that's why I've decided to run her there and I'm not worried about taking on the older horses.
"She certainly won't be initimidated. She's 16.3 hands, a really arrogant filly and full of attitude."
Zielke isn't the only Queensland trainer targeting Friday's Ballina Summer Cup, with Gold Coast trainer Maryann Brosnan saddling up two in-form runners in Portion Control and Smooth Consul, Eagle Farm trainer Chris Munce running Saint Paticks Day and Gold Coast trainer Toby Edmonds lining up with She Goes Pop.
Saint Patricks Day looks one of the hardest to beat coming off his recent solid form north of the border, including a last-start second to Bold Assassin over 1600m at the Sunshine Coast on January 6.
Portion Control, who carries the 61kg topweight at Ballina, was formerly with the Hayes-Dabernig stable. He won at his third start for Maryann Brosnan at Lismore last time out on December 21, downing Landmarks and Lucky Tom in the Benchmark 83 Xmas Cup (1405m).
Smooth Consul, a five-time winner over the 1600m, is coming off back-to-back wins at the Sunshine Coast on December 14 and Beaudesert on December 24.
Ballina trainer Stephen Lee will fly the flag for the locals, accepting with four runners in the 14-horse field - Pleased, Nothingforthepress, Spiral and Voltaire Lumiere.
The barrier draw wasn't great news for the Lee stable with Nothingforthepress faring best with gate seven, but Pleased (barrier 11), Spiral (14) and Voltaire Lumiere (13) all drawing out wide.