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Winter Cup hopefuls will get a strong test before heading to Riccarton next month when they clash with breakout performer Helena Baby tomorrow.
The three favourites for the group 3 feature in Red Sierra, Herengawe and Rosewood will race against the up-and-coming 4yr-old in tomorrow's Opunake Cup at New Plymouth.
Helena Baby, who has not been nominated for the Winter Cup, will face his toughest test when steps out in the 1400m listed feature.
The 4yr-old has looked brilliant in winning his past four starts and stamping himself as a rising winter star in graded company.
Trainer John Bell said he expected the winner of four of his six career starts to not only handle listed company, but also be competitive in better races.
"He is a class horse, he is a group 1-type horse, and is an amazing animal to do anything with," he told NZ Racing Desk.
"He is working very well. He will have 53kg, so it is no surprise he is one of the favoured runners."
Helena Baby opened a $2.40 favourite for tomorrow's race.
Lightweight chances dominated the race market when it opened earlier this week.
Te Horo Pearl (53.5kg) and Red Sierra (53.5kg) were rated the second and third favourites respectively.
Red Sierra is the $6 fixed-odds favourite for next month's Winter Cup at Riccarton.
The David and Emma Haworth-trained galloper started favourite last year after taking sparkling form into the race.
Red Sierra could not work into the event after beginning slowly and finished 12th.
The 5yr-old goes into tomorrow's race after winning her most recent start over 1300m at Otaki.
Fourth favourite Herengawe will aim for a hat-trick of wins in the Opunake Cup.
Chris Johnson will ride the 4yr-old, who has 54.5kg, for the first time in the race.
Herengawe completed a tough win two starts ago at Trentham, before producing a late closing victory at Awapuni earlier this month.
Herengawe is the $8 second equal favourite for the Winter Cup with Rosewood.
Rosewood will carry 58.5kg in the Opunkae Cup which means she concedes a weight advantage to her main rivals.
The 5yr-old goes into the race on the back of a fair performance for ninth in the Tauranga Classic in late June.
The galloper never got into the contest after jumping away slowly before making up some late ground.
A total of six Winter Cup-nominated horses contest tomorrow's race.
Comeback, Platinum Rapper and Ritani could also boost their stocks before the Riccarton feature with good runs in the event.
The picture before the Winter Cup should become even clearer after Sunday when some of the race's key chances contest the Oamaru Cup.