The burgeoning training partnership of Roger James and Robert Wellwood will give a pair of talented five-year-old mares their first hit-out of the season when they line-up in the Celebrating Melody Belle 1400 at Ellerlie on Saturday.
It could be the start of an exciting spring for Group 1 performer Rondinella who is earmarked to head across the Tasman to target some rich Australian spoils after Saturday’s run. “We originally were going to head straight to Australia, but a couple of targets over there were just coming up a bit quick,” Wellwood said. “We kicked to touch to go to Ellerslie tomorrow (Saturday). It’s not ideal being a heavy track, but she has got a good base of fitness, so it’s not going to hurt her.”
The daughter of Ocean Park ran home well to finish third to Aretha in her 1100m trial at Taupo last month and Wellwood said she has taken a lot of improvement from that trial. “It was a good trial, she finished it off nicely. She certainly needed the trial, but it cleaned her up and she has thrived since then.”
Rondinella’s Australian campaign is not yet set in stone, but it is likely to include the Group 2 W H Stocks Stakes (1600m) first-up at Moonee Valley later this month. “We will take it step-by-step, but more than likely she will pop over the ditch after this start,” Wellwood said. “The Stocks Stakes is where she will likely head after this, but we’ll just see how she comes through the weekend prior to firming up plans.”
While nominated for the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) next month, Wellwood is keeping a lid on expectations ahead of her Australian campaign. “Anyone’s ultimate goal in the spring is to win a Cox Plate, but she would have to come up enormously to have those aspirations in-mind,” he said.
Kingsclere Stable’s other quality five-year-old having her first start of the season is Group Three winner Concert Hall. She too had her first hit-out of the season at the Taupo trials on August 21, but her spring assignments are likely to be closer to home. “She was there (Taupo) for a day out and it really improved her,” Wellwood said.
“She is still on the way up and if she comes up in the right fashion she has got a couple of nice races in her this year too. “There are plenty of options for a filly like her. There are a couple of nice mile races, but we don’t really have any firm plans.”