Sacred Star should be well in contention for the group one Challenge Stakes in Hastings if he can run up to his form in Brisbane earlier this winter.

Trainer Tony Pike is looking for early season Group One success with talented sprinter-miler Sacred Star.

The Flying Spur gelding goes into the Challenge Stakes in Hastings on Saturday as one of the favourites in an open weight-for-age contest after beating class mare Silent Achiever in a trial at Taupo.

Unlike most of his opponents, he has form at Group level over sprint distances in Australia, having won the Group Two QTC Cup (1300m) earlier this year and running fifth (1400m) in the Group One Stradbroke in Brisbane.

“Brisbane racing is not quite Sydney or Melbourne, but any sprint form in Australia is probably good form for here,” Pike said.

“He’s trained on really well since his trial win and worked really well on Tuesday.”

Pike does not plan to head back to Australia too quickly with Sacred Star, aiming primarily at the Challenge Stakes and the Group One Windsor Park Plate (1600m) in Hastings this spring.

“He’s got a nomination for the Spring Classic but we’re doubtful he’ll get 2000 metres, so he might get a breather after the second race and be freshened for the local sprints over summer.”

Pike’s biggest concerns on Saturday are the barrier draw with Sacred Star likely to start from 10, and the possibility of heavier ground than the current dead six rating, though he has handled rain-affected ground in the past.

Sacred Star is one of four horses rated around the $7.50-$8.50 mark by the NZ TAB. The favourite is New Plymouth mare I Do, who is more seasoned than most of her opponents and will enjoy the track conditions.