Byerley Park trainer Peter Williams was a relieved man when the news came through that Ellerslie would play host to the Group 1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) meeting on Sunday.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Friday afternoon that Auckland will move out of lockdown and drop to level 2 from Sunday at 6am, after five days of zero cases of COVID-19 community transmission. The rest of the country will move to level one.
Williams, who trains in partnership with wife Dawn, has a team of six runners entered for the Ellerslie meeting, but was dismayed at the back-up option of running the meeting at Hawke’s Bay, 420kms away from his South Auckland base, in the event Auckland did not go down a level.
“It would have affected us a lot if they had moved the race meeting to Hawke’s Bay,” Williams said. “I feel that the Auckland trainers have been left out of it quite badly. Nobody has thought about the Auckland trainers one bit.
“It would have made it very awkward for us. We would have to have gone the day before. Cambridge and Matamata trainers can go down the day of, but we are a bit far away. It was going to be chaos.”
With the stress of venue issues out of the way, Williams is pleased with quality filly Il Affare, one of two members of the fairer sex that will take on the boys in the Derby on Sunday.
The daughter of Dundeel finished sixth in the Group 2 Avondale Guineas (2100m) when put into the race earlier than usual and Williams believes his filly can turn the tables on those that finished in front of her last start.
“I think she can turn the tables,” he said. “She has worked well since and we probably rode her a bit upside down in the Guineas.
“This time she will be ridden a bit more patiently. I don’t blame Johnathan (Parkes, jockey) one little bit. It was just the way we decided to ride her but I am happy with her going into the race.”
The Williams will also have another Classic-bound filly in Slave To Love contesting the Group 3 McKee Family Sunline Vase (2100m), with the daughter of Savabeel a different physical specimen to her stablemate.
“They’re two different types of fillies. Slave To Love is quite a light filly and has been a slow maturing horse that is getting there bit by bit. We are happy with her,” Williams said.
Slave To Love finished second behind high-class filly Amarelinha in the Group 2 David & Karyn Ellis Fillies Classic (2000m) last start and has the ominous task of taking on that rival again.
“She (Amarelinha) was very good, but all horses can be beaten. We have just got to hope that the favourite is not on her game on Sunday,” Williams said.
“We are happy with our filly and if we are not giving her too much of a head-start turning for home we are a chance.”
The Group One trainers are looking to get the day off to a good start, with All Paid Up a good chance in the second event on the Ellerslie card, the Stella Artois 1400m.
“I am happy with All Paid Up. He has done very well,” Williams said