Hawera and Matamata have been the beneficiaries of some unexpected circumstances this spring, with two of New Zealand’s most exciting racehorses having a change of plan and adding star quality to this weekend’s black-type features.
While last weekend’s wet weather was the deciding factor in Legarto switching to Saturday’s Listed Team Wealleans Matamata Cup (1600m), the spring campaign of fellow Group One star Prowess has been plagued by frustrating setbacks in its early stages. But the top-class daughter of Proisir is finally ready to put all of that behind her with a welcome return to competition in Saturday’s Gr.3 Grangewilliam Stud Taranaki Breeders’ Stakes (1400m) at Hawera.
Prowess was a standout on both sides of the Tasman as a three-year-old last season, lining up in eight races and coming away with six wins and two placings.
She stepped on to the big stage in January with a brilliant win against a star-studded field in the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) at Pukekohe, then returned to the same venue in March to defeat older opposition at weight-for-age in the Gr.1 Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes (2050m). Her season finale came in the Gr.1 Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m) in Sydney, where she romped to victory by more than three lengths.
Prowess kicked her four-year-old preparation off on the right note with a trial win at Te Rapa on August 1, but then she had an untimely setback with an abscess to a hock that ruled her out of the Gr.1 Memsie Stakes (1400m) in Melbourne on September 2.
A couple of weeks later, Prowess was due to run in a crucial trial at Taupo on September 15, but a stone bruise on the morning of the trial again brought things to a frustrating halt.
Trainers Roger James and Robert Wellwood endured those frustrations and have finally come out the other side, and they are looking forward to saddling their stable star in Saturday’s $100,000 feature for fillies and mares.
“I don’t think she’s looked better in this whole preparation,” James said. “She looks tremendous. Her work has been very good for her as well.
“I’m looking forward to Saturday. I think she’s forward enough to be very competitive first-up, but I just hope we don’t get any more rain on that Hawera track (which was rated Soft6 on Friday). The weather is something that we can’t really control, but apart from that we’re very happy.”
While the dream goal of the Gr.1 Cox Plate (2040m) is now out of reach, Prowess could still find herself at Moonee Valley on that world-famous raceday on October 28. James and Wellwood are keen to give her a shot at the Gr.2 Crystal Mile (1600m), which has previously been a highly successful race for the stable.
“It’s been a very good race to me over the years, winning it with Carson’s Cash (1993) and Silent Achiever (2012), so all going well, we’d love to have another shot at it with this mare,” James said.
Further down the track, Prowess has the option of returning to Group One level for the Champions Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on November 11.
Prowess is one of two runners in Saturday’s Taranaki Breeders’ Stakes for the James and Wellwood stable. They will also saddle Samoot, who races in the colours of Australian Bloodstock.
A two-time winner in England at the beginning of her career, the daughter of Dubawi then joined the Newcastle stable of Kris Lees and picked up another two wins at Canterbury last year.
Samoot made her New Zealand debut at New Plymouth on September 16, where she was a close third behind Mustang Valley and Ladies Man.
“Her form starts to look pretty good after what Mustang Valley did on Saturday,” James said. “She’s a lovely mare that just does what’s required. She’s not a standout worker, but a good worker. We didn’t know what to expect from her first-up, but she ran a very good race.
“They sent her over to us because they said she loves a wet track. So, on the one hand, we wouldn’t mind if we had that this weekend for her. But I don’t really want it at all for the other horse.”
James and Wellwood will also saddle Pinion in the NZ Farmers Livestock Ltd Egmont Cup (2100m). A runner-up in the Listed Hawke’s Bay Cup (2200m) in April, the Pins gelding stuck on well for a close fourth over 1600m first-up at Tauranga on September 23 and shapes as a likely improver.