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Trainers hoping good times continue to roll

Concert Hall winning the Gr.3 City of Auckland Cup (2400m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day.  - Photo: Trish Dunell
Concert Hall winning the Gr.3 City of Auckland Cup (2400m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day.

Photo: Trish Dunell

Cambridge trainers Roger James and Robert Wellwood are well on their way toward their most successful season since forming a training partnership at the beginning of the 2018-19 term.

Their top tally to date was 30 winners in that initial season and they are currently sitting on 20 with a best ever mark of six black-type winners and realistic chances of adding to their stakes haul at Trentham on Saturday.

“Hopefully, that’s the case and we have had a really good season and have got some nice horses, all things being equal I think we have a lot to look forward to,” James said.

“It’s about being patient and having good owners who are prepared to be patient.”

On Saturday, the high-class stablemates Concert Hall and Two Illicit will go head-to-head in the Gr.1 Harcourts Thorndon Mile (1600m) and both have already enjoyed lucrative campaigns.

Last year’s Gr.1 Zabeel Classic (2000m) winner Concert Hall triumphed in the Gr.2 Cal Isuzu Stakes (1600m) and at her most recent appearance claimed the Gr.3 City of Auckland Cup (2400m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day.

On that occasion, she gave 4.5kg to runner-up and stablemate Cheaperthandivorce, herself a major success story this preparation with Group Three wins in the Thompson Handicap (1600m) and Waikato Cup (2400m).

Meanwhile, Two Illicit will be chasing further top-flight success having landed the Gr.1 Captain Cook Stakes (1600m) on the course before Christmas and last time out she finished an unlucky third in the Gr.1 Zabeel Classic (2000m).

When posed the inevitable question about their chances at Trentham, James leaned slightly toward the Trelawney Stud-bred and raced Two Illicit.

“I am really happy with both of them and they got through a nice piece of work on Tuesday morning and they don’t need any more really. At a mile, I would probably go slightly toward Two Illicit and once it gets further than that it becomes very even,” he said.

Safely through the weekend, the mares may clash again in the Gr.1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) at Te Rapa on February 12.

“It’s always race by race, but we have plans for them. As I say, they have to come through each race well enough to look forward,” James said. “The Herbie Dyke is on the radar for both of them.”

Concert Hall is raced by breeder Joan Egan, whose colours will also be carried by the Savabeel mare’s half-sister Avalene in the Gr.2 New Zealand Bloodstock Desert Gold Stakes (1600m).

The daughter of Vadamos was a debut winner at Te Aroha and a return trip there last time out resulted in a third placing against older opposition with an unplaced run in the Gr.3 Eulogy Stakes (1600m) at Awapuni in between times. 

“The bottom line is that she is inexperienced and I’d like her to get in among the field and have something to chase on Saturday,” James said. “It is a perfect track to do that and she goes in having worked very well.” -NZ Racing Desk