Roger James and Robert Wellwood have some promising three-year-olds entered for Tauranga on Saturday, but the Cambridge trainers are keeping a close eye on the weather in the lead-up to the meeting.
The Tauranga track was rated a Soft6 on Friday morning, but a further 20mm of rain was forecast to fall in the region through the remainder of the day.
“A few of our Tauranga runners are probably a little bit up in the air with the weather, so we’ll just have to wait and see,” Wellwood said.
Weather-permitting, James and Wellwood’s day will kick off with first-starter December in the Bayleys Mount Maunganui Maiden (1200m). The three-year-old Shamexpress gelding is a half-brother to the Group One performer Chambord, and he was bought for $280,000 from the New Zealand Bloodstock Ready to Run Sale last November.
December has had two trials, winning them both by a combined margin of six lengths.
“Provided the track isn’t too bad, we’re very excited to see December run at Tauranga,” Wellwood said. “We think he’s a really smart horse. His trials have been excellent, and he’s drawn well for this race, but we’re just going to have to wait and see what the weather does between now and then.”
Sonnet and Zabmanzor are entered for Saturday’s two 1400m maiden events.
“Both of them have shown quite a lot of promise in their first couple of starts,” Wellwood said. “Zabmanzor found the line very well last time out, while Sonnet’s really been knocking on the door of a win. But they’ve both drawn wide on Saturday, and again, we’re very much on a weather watch for both horses.”
Last season’s Gr.3 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2400m) winner Dionysus was entered for Saturday’s Mode Technology Feilding Gold Cup (2100m) at Trentham, but James and Wellwood have scratched him in favour of a run against a small field in Tuesday’s Gr.3 Balmerino Stakes (2050m) at Pukekohe.
“We’ve decided to take him to Pukekohe instead, just saving him that big trip down to Wellington and back,” Wellwood said. “He was meant to run in the Livamol Classic (Gr.1, 2040m) and just had a little niggle that set him back a bit, but he seems to be back on track now and going nicely.
“We’re pointing him towards some of those nice Cup races that are coming up through the next few weeks, so this is mainly just going to be a run to get him ready for those.”
Tuesday’s Pukekohe card also features the Listed Fulton Family Stakes (1500m), where James and Wellwood are set to be represented by Apostrophe and Samoot.
Apostrophe was a brilliant winner on the first day of the Hawke’s Bay Spring Carnival before being unplaced in the Gr.3 Spring Sprint (1400m) on October 14. Samoot has had two starts since being sent across the Tasman by owners Australian Bloodstock, finishing third behind subsequent Group One winners Mustang Valley and Ladies Man on September 16, then running fifth in the Gr.3 Taranaki Breeders’ Stakes (1400m) on October 7.
“That last race at Hastings didn’t really go Apostrophe’s way,” Wellwood said. “They went super fast, the ground was quite firm and she never really got into the race. Getting up over a touch further will suit, and she’s a class mare on her day.
“Samoot has being going really well. We’re putting blinkers on this week and getting her back right-handed. The rise in distance won’t hurt her either.
“She’d only ever raced right-handed in her whole life until those first couple of runs for us, so she’s done a couple of things not quite right. Being back right-handed and on a nice, open track should be ideal for her.”
Meanwhile, James and Wellwood had another bright young prospect step out on Friday, with three-year-old Aladdin Sane finishing second at Te Aroha. Making only the second start of his career, the Satono Aladdin gelding was edged out by Promised Land in a photo finish.
“That was a super run,” Wellwood said. “He’s still very green and still learning. He was narrowly beaten by a pretty handy horse that’s got a year on him age-wise. He’ll learn a lot from that run today.
“We think he’s a nice staying type of three-year-old in the making. We’ll play it by ear in terms of how far we go with him in this preparation. Autumn is going to be his time, probably with blinkers on at some stage as well.”
Wellwood also gave a glowing report on the progress of stable star Prowess since her victory in last Saturday’s Gr.2 Crystal Mile (1600m) at The Valley.
“She’s come through that race extremely well,” he said. “She licked her bowl clean and licked her hay bag, as she’s been doing pretty much every night she’s been over there.
“She did have a pretty decent blow after the race, which was only her second run back after six months off the scene, so there’s plenty of improvement in her.
“We’ll be heading up against the big guns in the Champions Stakes (Gr.1, 2000m) next Saturday, so she’s going to have to be on her A-game."