Ten Topics for Trentham
A huge day of racing kicks off at Trentham Saturday
1. Favourite due to win the Telegraph
Glamour mare Melody Belle will have the law of averages on her side when she tackles the $250,000 JR & N Berkett Telegraph at Trentham on Saturday.
Melody Belle opened as a $2.20 favourite in the final field market for the Group I Telegraph, a race that has not been kind to favourites in recent years. Seachange, who paid $2.40 in 2008, has been the only favourite to win the big sprint in the last 15 years.
Melody Belle will also need to overcome the outside barrier. A wide barrier counted against her in the Railway at Ellerslie, at her last start, but tends to be less of a problem down the 1200m chute at Trentham and Guiseppina came from barrier 18 to win the 2012 Telegraph.
2. Long odds no barrier to winning
History also tells us that punters shouldn’t be afraid to back a roughie in the Telegraph.
The last four winners have been Enzo’s Lad ($74.30), Signify ($46.30), Adventador ($80.90) and Sacred Star ($27.40).
Enzo’s Lad and Signify will both be back this weekend, as part of a strong southern challenge for the Telegraph, with fellow Canterbury gallopers Prince Oz and Sensei joining them in the field.
Prince Oz was a rating 58 horse when he had his first run for Riccarton Park trainer Neill Ridley, 10 months ago. Prince Oz had finished last in his two previous starts, when based in the central districts but is unbeaten from Ridley’s stable. The seven-year-old was recording his seventh win on end, all over 1200m, when successful in the Group III Stewards Stakes at Riccarton.
3. Group I win can’t be far away
Sam Collett, the winner of last season’s jockeys’ premiership, gets two more chances to claim her first Group I win this weekend.
Collett has had 15 wins at either Group II or Group III level and her outstanding form over the past 18 months is resulting in more opportunities at the top level.
She will partner Signify (Telegraph) and More Money (Thorndon Mile) in the two Group I races at Trentham and has also been engaged for Kamanda Lincoln in the Group III Wellington Cup and Emily Margaret in the Group III Desert Gold Stakes.
Collett, who has mounts in eight of the 10 races at Trentham, has had three Group I placings over the past 12 months and was only a head away from winning the BCD Sprint at Te Rapa, on Packing Eagle.
Signify is at long odds again but has won twice down the Trentham chute and drops to 55kg, the lightest weight he has carried since his 2017 Telegraph victory. He carried 60kg when third behind Sensei at Wingatui at his last start and meets Sensei 7.5kg better off at the weights this week.
4. Youth against experience
More Wonder is attempting to join the select group of three-year-olds who have won the Thorndon Mile. More Wonder opened as second favourite for the Thorndon, after a luckless run for fourth in the Levin Classic last weekend.
Only four three-year-olds have won the Thorndon in the last 50 years, though it hasn’t been a common target for that age group.
Alamosa was the most recent three-year-old winner, in 2008, and Golden King was successful at 20 years earlier. McGinty set a national record when winning in 1:32.99 in 1983 and Panzer Chief won in 1971.
Golden King, who was trained by Garth Ivil, raced for just one season. The Thorndon win was his sixth in a row, but he suffered career-ending injuries just two starts later.
5. Five Cup runners back for more
Five horses – Alinko Prince, Sampson, Jacksstar, Balham and Sylvester – will be back for more in the Wellington Cup.
Alinko Prince and Sampson will both be having third start in the race and Jacksstar, Balham and Sylvester return for a second bid.
Jacksstar, who should be close to peak fitness again, has a good record over 3200m and likes Trentham. He won the 2500m NZ St Leger at Trentham, beating Five To Midnight, in March 2016 and later that year won over 3200m at Trentham in rating 85 company.
The Zed gelding ran a close second in the 2017 Wellington Cup, behind Savaria, before finishing third in the 2017 Auckland Cup. He suffered a tendon injury at Ellerslie and it was another 18 months before he raced again.
Alinko Prince failed at his first attempt at 3200m, in the 2017 Wellington Cup, but finished third last year and was also placed in the 2018 Auckland Cup.
6. Mathews an old hand at Wellington Cup experience
Howie Mathews, who trains leading Wellington Cup chance Sampson, has a long history in the race.
Mathews, who now trains a small team at Otaki, had his first Wellington Cup runner as a 24-year-old, when Big Gamble ran second, behind champion stayer Good Lord, in 1978.
Mathews still notched a major win at Trentham that day, with Big Gamble’s stablemate Extra Flash winning the Telegraph, while Big Gamble returned a year later to win the 1979 Wellington Cup by five lengths.
Big Gamble contested the Wellington Cup three times, finishing fifth in his final attempt.
Coshking, who was good enough to win a Brisbane Cup and run second in a Sydney Cup, twice ran fourth in the Wellington Cup for Mathews, and Rising Heights and Taikorea have been among the stable’s other Cup runners.
Sampson, who won the Marton Cup at his last start, ran second in last year’s Wellington Cup, beaten a long neck, and ran third in 2016.
7. Per Incanto well represented in features
Little Avondale Stud stallion Per Incanto will be well represented in the feature races at Trentham.
Per Incanto has three runners apiece in the Telegraph and Thorndon Mile and one in the Wellington Cup.
Shadows Cast, Dolcetto and Magnum will contest the Thorndon with Casaquinman, Rocanto and Sweepstake tackling the Telegraph. Six-year-old mare Missy Moo, who won at Tauherenikau, at her last start, is an acceptor for the Cup.
8. History against the mares
Mares do not have a good record in the Wellington Cup.
Just eight mares have won the race over the past 80 years, though their strike rate has been a little better in recent times, with three mares winning this century.
Dee And Gee, Missy Moo, Sulcifera, Off With Her Head and Korakonui are the mares who accepted this week, though the latter two are on the ballot. Sulcifera is the most favoured of the five.
9. Patience being rewarded
Leading Wellington Cup contender Prince Jabeel took 14 starts to win a maiden.
The Savabeel gelding made his debut as a three-year-old but did not win his maiden till last September, when five.
However, he has not finished further back than third since. His last five starts have all been at 2400m and have produced two wins and three thirds. He emerged as a genuine Wellington Cup hope with a last-start win in the City of Auckland Cup at Ellerslie.
Prince Jabeel races in the colours of Cambridge Stud proprietors Brendan and Jo Lindsay and Brendan also bred the horse.
Brendan Lindsay would get a special thrill from winning a Wellington Cup. The Tawa College old boy grew up in Pukerua Bay and his racing team run in the black and gold colours of Wellington.
10. O'Reilly leaves mark on Telegraph field
O’Reilly, who was one of the outstanding Telegraph Handicap winners of modern times, will be represented by three runners in Saturday’s edition.
O’Reilly became a champion sire and though he died in December 2014, his influence continues to be felt on the track. His sons Prince Oz, Sweet Leader and Hanger will tackle the Telegraph and Tiptronic and Killarney will contest the Thorndon.
Three-year-old Just Fabulous, who is from O’Reilly’s final crop, is a form runner for the Desert Gold Stakes.
O’Reilly had a short but dazzling race career, with four wins and a second from his first five starts, before going amiss in the Group I Newmarket in Melbourne, at his sixth and last start.
He won the Group I Bayer Classic at his third start and bolted away with the 1996 Telegraph at his next attempt.