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Vile playing hard ball at Awapuni

21 December 2017, 2:45 p.m.

Gary Vile believes he has the right product to capitalise on lucrative summer racing spoils.

The Awapuni trainer will produce exciting Burgundy three-year-old Hard Merchandize in Saturday's Gr.2 Kamada Park Manawatu Challenge Stakes (1400m) at Awapuni, the second leg of a four-race summer campaign.

Hard Merchandize (one off fence) winning the Gr.2 Hawke's Bay Guineas (1400m) Photo: Trish Dunell

"People might say New Zealand racing is buggered. Well, this horse will race for $1.4 million in stakes in his four starts this summer. That's pretty good money to be running for," Vile said.

Already a winner of more than $130,000, chiefly through his Gr.2 Hawke's Bay Guineas (1400m) success at Hastings in October, Hard Merchandize resumed with a fifth placing in last month's Gr.3 Bonecrusher Stakes (1400m) at Ellerslie.

He will tackle next month's Gr.1 Levin Classic (1600m) at Trentham before contesting the $1 million Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) at Ellerslie on January 27.

"He's done really well since Ellerslie. He just over-raced up there and got a bit lost and found the track a bit hard," Vile said.

"We've had a bit of rain down here and he'll race this weekend on a track with a bit of give and it should be ideal for him."

The Awapuni track was rated a dead five on Thursday morning ahead of Hard Merchandize's first test at weight-for-age, a move that was ratified with the scratching of Kawi.

"We had him in the three-year-old race as well but Kawi coming out of the weight-for-age has made a huge difference and it has swayed me," Vile said.

"I needed to run the horse to have him ready to run a mile in the Levin Classic and we were leaning to the weight-for-age race, but I didn't really want to see Kawi in there."

Hard Merchandize has returned to the stable a more professional racehorse and Vile has been delighted with his more relaxed demeanour which has given him confidence that 1600m won't pose any problems.

"I have no fears about him getting a mile and I know Cameron [Lammas, jockey] doesn't either," Vile said.

"To get the mile out of them, they need to relax and cruise along. We've seen that in his trackwork. He's become a really relaxed horse. He'll step up to the mile in the Levin Classic and then we'll go to the Karaka 3YO Mile - there are a million reasons to get him ready for that."

Vile said Lammas would slide forward on Hard Merchandize and take a sit in the Manawatu Challenge Stakes behind likely leaders Amarula and La Fille En Jeu.

"Coming off the bend at Awapuni, if you can quicken and catch the backrunners flat-footed, you can be hard to catch," Vile said.

"His work this morning was sensational. We couldn't be any happier with him anyway. People might think I'm being a bit ambitious taking on weight-for-age but he only has to come out of his box, go to the track and race and then he's back in his box. He doesn't have to travel and he's going to get a track to suit."

Vile also had Slimline in the Challenge Stakes, but said she would be reserved for the Summer Cup (1550m) at Awapuni on Boxing Day. - NZ Racing Desk.