Racing shot: Trish Dunell
Astara returned to winning form on her at Ellerslie, her favourite track and scene of her three career successes.
Ruakaka trainers Donna Logan and Chris Gibbs went into the Listed Soliloquy Stakes (1400m) feeling confident with Astara.
The confidence was rewarded when the Dalghar filly powered to victory on her favourite track Ellerslie.
Last season as a 2-year-old she won the Listed Champagne Stakes to add to her maiden win on the track.
The good track, good draw and a canny Samantha Collett ride made her job easier and she had enough in the tank to hold out second placed favourite Glass Slipper and the powerful finish of Mystery Show who flew home for third.
"She's got a great big stride which suits having her handy to the speed and from her good draw we were able to get a nice run," Collett said.
Astara has won three of her six races for Perth owner Neven Botica who also owns her sire who stands at Brighthill Farm at Tauwhare between Cambridge and Hamilton.
Logan can't wait for the Group I 1000 Guineas at Riccarton in a few weeks.
"Bring it on," she said after the Soliloquy.
Collett is even more eager than the trainer to get to the 1000 Guineas.
"It's so exciting," she said. "It's a race I haven't had a ride in and to be on a filly with a big chance is great."
The filly's determination impressed Collett on Saturday who has been aboard in each of her wins.
"She needed her first couple of runs back this time but she's found her form now - she's a real natural athlete."
A natural athlete but slightly quirky which is part of the reason connections have stuck with Collett as their preferred rider.
"She was a bit of a handful early on and I got on with her so have been able to keep the ride," she said.
"Her connections have been really loyal to me and it would be great to repay them at Riccarton."
The first three home will meet again in the Riccarton race and connections of all three were happy with Saturday's efforts none more so than James Bridge trainer of Mystery Show.
His filly was last on settling for jockey Mark Du Plessis from her wide draw before unleashing her sustained finish to complete a satisfying day for Bridge and suggesting the 1600m of the Guineas will suit her perfectly.
"She went huge. We had no options from the draw but she hit the line hard," Du Plessis said
Promising Gilhoolie has a high head carriage but it doesn't slow the flying 2-year-old down.
Trained by Bridge and ridden by Du Plessis, the son of Guillotine exploded from the gates in Saturday's 800m juvenile dash and didn't give his rivals a look in.
"It was an encouraging win," Bridge said of his debutant who impressed Du Plessis.
"He's been too fast in his trials and he was too fast today," the jockey said.
"He's got to improve his fitness a bit yet - but he's exciting."
The corresponding race last year was won by Karaka Million winner Xiong Feng and Gilhoolie could be on the same path.
The son of Dazzling Belle, a six-time juvenile winner when trained by Graeme Rogerson, was offered as a yearling by Monovale Farm and co-breeder Rogerson and purchased by Bridge for $50,000.
The Desert Son mare is also the dam of the Group III Taranaki 2YO Classic winner Magic Dancer and the well-performed Manten, also a 2-year-old winner, runner-up in the Group I Manawatu Sires' Produce Stakes and a multiple Group I placegetter as an older sprinter.
Despite racing greenly in the straight, Gilhoolie still had two and a half lengths to spare on Oscar Eight at the post.
Third home after missing the jump was Star Treasure, whose connections also race Xiong Feng.