A switch in plans has led Group 1 performer Aalaalune to target Saturday’s Group 3 Lawnmaster Eulogy Stakes (1600m) at Awapuni to open up options at Ellerslie’s Christmas carnival. Trainers Graeme, Debbie and Bailey Rogerson changed tack from their original plan to start Aalaalune in Sunday’s Listed Hynds 3YO Salver (2100m) at Ellerslie after discussions with owners Lou Te Keeti and Val Gates. “We considered the Ellerslie race but sat down with Val and Lou, and we decided that if we went to 2100m now, we couldn’t really drop back in distance,” Graeme Rogerson said. “By going to the Eulogy, it means we can look at the Ladies Mile and the Royal Stakes at Ellerslie after Christmas.”
It’s the same programme the Rogersons set for Contessa Vanessa two years ago, that filly placing in the Eulogy before winning the Group 2 Ladies Mile (1600m) at Ellerslie on Boxing Day and finishing second in the Group 2 Royal Stakes (2000m) at Ellerslie six days later. Contessa Vanessa went on to win the Group 3 Sunline Vase (2100m) at Ellerslie before finishing second in the Group 1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) at Trentham, the main goal this season for Reliable Man filly Aalaalune.
Already Group 1-placed in this year’s Sistema Stakes (1200m) at Ellerslie, Aalaalune finally broke out of maiden company with a scintillating four-length win at Te Rapa last start. “She’s gone to another level since then too,” Rogerson said. “Have a look at her sectionals and what time she can run. Debbie is just so happy with her. She’s a very good horse that’s still learning. She’s still growing into herself. “But she’s got that ability and hopefully we’ll see that shine through on Saturday. She’ll be better as she gets over further (distance) but she’s still sharp enough to race well this weekend. She’ll be very competitive.”
Aalaalune heads the TAB market for the Eulogy at $2.80, ahead of Belle Plaisir at $4 and Showbeel at $4.20. Team Rogerson has six runners at Awapuni, with Mr Universe out to secure a start in the Group 1 Sistema Railway (1200m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day when he tackles the Brokerweb Risk Services 1200, while last-start Group 3 Eagle Technology Stakes (1600m) runner-up Beauden steps up to 2000m in the Central House Movers Handicap. “Mr Universe has the makings of a very good horse. Beauden loves Awapuni and he looks like he could develop into a good free-going staying horse,” Rogerson said.
The stable’s other runners there are Island Bay, Pasabahce and Surrey, while Group 2 Cal Isuzu Stakes (1600m) contender Contessa Vanessa spearheads a team of three at Te Rapa, also consisting of Malambo and Francis Drake. “Contessa Vanessa will run well and then probably go to the Zabeel Classic (Group 1, 2000m). Malambo goes well at Te Rapa and Rahul (Beemud, stable apprentice) claims four kilos off her weight which will help.”