Astute trainer Roger James has every confidence that his top mare Concert Hall will stay 3200m in Sydney this autumn.
Concert Hall, who was born and raised at Trelawney Stud for owner-breeder Joan Egan, arrived in Sydney on Monday for a two-race campaign, which takes in the Gr.2 Chairman’s Quality (2600m) on April 10 and the Gr.1 Sydney Cup (3200m) a week later.
Concert Hall’s career has mainly been focused on distances between 1600m and 2100m, where she has won six of her 16 starts, including the Gr.1 Zabeel Classic (2000m) at Ellerslie on Boxing Day.
She has raced beyond 2100m on three occasions, all last season, in which she won the Gr.3 Manawatu Cup (2300m), finished fourth in the Gr.3 City of Auckland Cup (2400m), and was well beaten in the Gr.2 Avondale Cup (2400m), her final run of the season.
However, James said it wasn’t a lack of confidence in the mare’s staying ability that kept her away from longer distances.
“I’ve always thought she would get two miles. It was always one of the options for her,” said James, who trains in partnership with Robert Wellwood.
“She’s been going so well at middle distances that I haven’t had to run her at longer distances. But she’s in the Sydney Cup with 53kg so it’s a great opportunity for her.”
Concert Hall had originally been targeted at the Australian Cup (Gr.1, 2000m), Ranvet Stakes (Gr.1, 2000m) and Tancred Stakes (Gr.1, 2400m), but her campaign was set back when she escaped at the starting gates in the Gr.3 Taranaki Cup (1800m) on Waitangi Day, crashing over the outside rail and making an unscheduled trip into a children’s playground.
Remarkably she escaped without harm, but it did put her original campaign plans to one side.
She has been playing catch-up since, finishing sixth in both the Lisa Chittick Plate (1400m) on February 27 and the Gr.1 New Zealand Stakes (2000m) on March 13, but she is in fine fettle now after working brilliantly with regular jockey Vinnie Colgan on Sunday.
“We just had to step back, show patience, and look at the situation and let her find her feet again after New Plymouth,” James said.
“I thought her work was superb at the weekend. It was as nice a staying work as you could wish for.”
Leading jockey Glen Boss, fresh from winning the Tancred Stakes aboard Sir Dragonet last Saturday, is scheduled to ride Concert Hall in both her Sydney starts.
Concert Hall was originally rated a 50-1 chance for the Sydney Cup but has come in to 25-1 with some bookmakers since then. – NZ Racing Desk