Cambridge trainer Robert Wellwood is hoping his best Christmas present can be unwrapped at Ellerslie on Boxing Day. Wellwood, who trains in partnership with Roger James, has yet to win a Group 1 race but is hoping that can be remedied when Savabeel six-year-old mare Concert Hall tackles Saturday’s Group 1 Cambridge Stud Zabeel Classic (2000m) at Ellerslie.
“We love Christmas racing. It’s so good to get up to Ellerslie and have a few nice horses in. I haven’t won a Group 1 race yet but hopefully that could be my Christmas present on Boxing Day,” Wellwood said.
Concert Hall goes into the Zabeel Classic as the winner of eight of her 22 starts, following wins in the Group 3 Thomson Handicap (1600m) at Trentham and Group 2 Tauranga Stakes (1600m) with a fast-finishing last-start second to Rock On Wood in the Group 1 Captain Cook Stakes (1600m) at Trentham.
“Her run at Trentham was super-good,” Wellwood said. “The track didn’t quite suit her. Vinnie (Colgan, jockey) said at the top of the straight her wheels were spinning but the way she hit the line was superb. “She tries her guts out every time she gets out on to the track and that was no exception so hopefully up to 2000m at Ellerslie on a better surface, we’ll see an improved run.”
TAB bookmakers have Concert Hall and Rock On Wood as joint $4.20 favourites for the Zabeel Classic, a race James has won previously with Field Dancer in 1987, when he trained in partnership with Jim Gibbs, and Zonda in 2001.
Wellwood said the Joan Egan-bred and raced Concert Hall was in grand order heading into the weight-for-age feature. “This whole preparation she’s bounced through her runs. She’s a more mature mare now and she’s handled her runs extremely well so she’ll head to Boxing Day in fine order,” he said.
“We’re really happy with her. We’re going to see her over 2000m for the first time this preparation which is really going to suit her. “She’s been exceptional over those distances in the past and she’s run really sharp miles this time in. We’re really excited to see her up over a middle distance.”
Wellwood said no plans were in place for Concert Hall after the Zabeel Classic but she could take a summer break to prepare for autumn racing.
James and Wellwood have a strong team heading to Ellerslie with Cheaperthandivorce and Camarosa tackling the Group 2 Jamieson Park Eight Carat Classic (1600m), One More Time slated for the Listed Shaw’s Wire Ropes Uncle Remus Stakes (1400m), Madam Hass in the Listed Hallmark Stud Handicap (1200m), Deep Beauty in the Stella Artois 1500 Championship Final (1500m) and Flomiline in the Dunstan Feeds Stayers Championship Qualifier (2200m).
While Wellwood was lamenting several wide draws, he was excited about the team and expecting bold runs from his fillies in the Eight Carat Classic.