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Highly talented three-year-old Lupo Solitario has pleased Matamata trainer Danica Guy in the build-up to his return to racing, but a last-minute setback has cast some doubt over his participation in Saturday’s Gr.3 Bonecrusher Stakes (1400m) at Pukekohe.
The Satono Aladdin gelding towered over the TAB's market for the $120,000 feature at a quote of $1.70 on Friday, but Guy revealed that a stone bruise has made him an uncertain starter.
"He'll be absolutely fine moving forward, but he might not be fine for the race tomorrow," Guy said on Friday afternoon. "It turns out he's just got a minor bruise on one heel. It's nothing major, but he's feeling it a little bit today. We obviously can't treat him for it today, so we've just got to let things take their course. If he's still not quite right in the morning, he won't be running.
"The back-up option would be going straight to Boxing Day and running in the Auckland Guineas (Gr.2, 1400m), and then into the Karaka Millions 3YO (1600m) off just that one run.
"We're not worried about it at all. This was just going to be a nice step along the road."
Lupo Solitario launched his career with impressive back-to-back wins at Te Rapa and Tauranga in August and September. The placegetters in the Te Rapa maiden race were Glamour Tycoon and Mary Shan, who have both gone on to perform at black-type level.
Lupo Solitario stepped on to the big stage for his third start, lining up in the Gr.2 Sarten Memorial (1400m) at Te Rapa. He suffered the first defeat of his career, finishing second and a length and a half behind standout three-year-old Crocetti. That rival has now won all of his six starts including the Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m), while Sarten third placegetter To Catch A Thief filled the same position in the Riccarton classic.
The big trip south for the 2000 Guineas was never on Guy's agenda for Lupo Solitario, instead giving him a brief let-up before setting her sights on the $1.5 million TAB Karaka Millions 3YO at Ellerslie in late January.
"Up until that little stone bruise today, everything had gone really well with him," Guy said. "We gave him two weeks off after the Sarten, then we just slowly built him back up from there.
"I was very pleased with how he went in a recent exhibition gallop at Counties, and his last gallop with Ryan (Elliot, jockey) aboard was just what we were looking for."
Lupo Solitario is also prominent in Karaka Millions 3YO betting, currently rated a $6 third favourite behind the $4 equal favourites Molly Bloom and Tokyo Tycoon.
Lupo Solitario headlines a three-horse team for Guy at Pukekohe on Saturday, where bold performances are also expected from stablemates Wild West and Suzuka in the Stella Artois 1500 Championship Qualifier (1200m).
It will be the first start in just over a year for Wild West, who has previously won in a fresh state. He showed good signs with a second placing in a Taupo trial on November 22, chasing home quality sprinter Bonny Lass.
The lightly raced Suzuka ran fourth on debut in December of last year and has made a strong return in three starts this spring. He ran second behind budding star Adam I Am at Matamata in September, then won at Taupo before a last-start third in heavy ground at Tauranga.
The TAB has Suzuka on the second line of favouritism at $6 behind Titled ($5.50), with Wild West not far behind on an $8 quote.
"I'm rapt with both Wild West and Suzuka," Guy said. "I'm just a little disappointed that Suzuka drew out wide. He's a forward-running horse, so the lower the draw, the better. But it doesn't look like there's a whole lot of speed, so I just hope he can get forward without doing too much. I'm really happy with him.
"I think the old boy Wild West is looking really good too. He should run well."