Versatile mare Concert Hall bagged the Group One victory she richly deserved when she stormed home out wide to snatch victory in the Gr.1 Cambridge Stud Zabeel Classic (2000m) at Ellerslie.
Prepared for owner and breeder Joan Egan by Roger James and Robert Wellwood, Concert Hall had looked a Group One winner in waiting throughout her career having won four individual stakes races before her success on Saturday, while she had been runner-up to race rival Rock On Wood in the Gr.1 Captain Cook Stakes (1600m) at Trentham earlier in the month.
Stepping up to her preferred 2000m distance on Saturday, her winning chances appeared to have been thwarted when rider Vinnie Colgan found himself last of the eleven runners with just 600m to run.
Colgan sent the Savabeel mare to the extreme outside as she set off after pacemaker In A Twinkling, who was looking to provide trainer Jamie Richards with an unprecedented seven winners on the day and a clean sweep of the four black type events on offer.
Concert Hall, who was born and raised at Trelawney Stud, ranged up at the 100m and with fellow six-year-old mare Supera, they dived at In A Twinkling with Concert Hall getting in the decisive stride to beat Supera by a neck, with In A Twinkling a further head back in third.
Co-trainer Roger James cut a relieved figure after the race as he acknowledged he had been supremely confident leading into the race.
“I said to a couple of my close friends on the way up here today that I thought she was the stable’s best chance,” he said.
“It might sound cocky as I know you don’t win them (Group One races) out of turn, but the 2000m and the better track was always going to play right into her hands.
“Quite honestly though, at the 100m mark I didn’t think she could win it.
“It was a good effort off a slow tempo and to come from that far off them when they quickened up front, she is a good mare.”
James was also quick to pay tribute to breeder Joan Egan, who was on course to cheer on her pride and joy.
“This is so wonderful for Joan as this is the first Group One winner she has bred and owned,” James said.
“She is the epitome of the old-fashioned breeder that thinks of everything before she does her mating’s, so this is enormous for her.”
The victory also represented the first Group One victory for co-trainer Robert Wellwood.
“That means so much to me as I can tick the Group One winner off the bucket list,” Wellwood said.
“To get a result like this is just brilliant.
“She (Concert Hall) is bred to be a Group One winner and I’m just super pleased for Joan and her husband Peter.
“Peter’s health is not the best, so to have them and their family here is very special.”
Concert Hall is the second foal of Egan’s four-race winning Carnegie mare Classic Legacy and hails from an extended family that includes Group One winners Arena and Tartan Tights.
Concert Hall has now won nine of her 23 starts and in excess of $425,000 in prizemoney. – NZ Racing Desk