MATAMATA training pair Bev and Ken Kelso are going into Saturday’s Counties meeting hopeful rather than confident with their two black-type contenders.
They will be represented in the Group Two Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders Stakes by the in-form Cote D’Or and their chances in the Listed Haunui Farm Counties Bowl will rest with Irish Moon.
With four straight wins on the board, Cote D’Or will have plenty of supporters, while Irish Moon has shown over the years it has the talent to win the Bowl.
Though pleased with their recent work, Ken Kelso is reserved over the prospects of both horses.
“This is a lead-up to the Cal Isuzu for Cote D’Or and she’s dropping back to 1400 metres,” he said.
“She had a pretty hard run when she won the Matamata Cup and had a bit of time off to get over it so she’ll improve with this run.”
As for Irish Moon, Kelso is looking to a gear change to help it regain form after finishing sixth behind Untamed Diamond in the Listed Legacy Lodge Sprint at Te Rapa a fortnight ago.
“We’ve taken the hood (blinkers) off Irish Moon,” Kelso said.
“Michael (Coleman) reckons he was going too hard for his own good with it on. Hopefully he will settle a bit better.”
Cote D’Or was impressive when charging home to win the Listed Matamata Cup six weeks ago and, though best suited over 1600 metres or further, the lengthy Pukekohe home straight could enable the to repeat that finishing burst over the shorter 1400m trip.
The Cote D’Or camp had originally planned to keep her at 1600 metres for the horse’s next start after the Matamata Cup and tackle the Carbine Club Stakes at Ellerslie on Melbourne Cup day with a possible view to either contesting Saturday’s Group Three Ssangwong Counties Cup or having yet another 1600-metre start.
Giving the horse as much possible time to get over the Matamata Cup run will be imperative, and because of this it was decided Cote D’Or will drop back to 1400 metres on Saturday then target the Group Two Cal Isuzu Stakes at Te Rapa on December 16.
“In hindsight it wouldn’t have suited her running at Ellerslie the way they were winning off the front,” Kelso said.
“This is a better option and as long as she is finishing it off well I’ll be happy. It should top her off for the Cal Isuzu.”
Cote D’Or has won half its 14 starts for owner and co-breeder, Sir Peter Vela, with three of the wins being over 1600 metres.
She was stretched out to three staying tests last campaign and improved with each assignment. She finished third in the South Waikato Cup in her middle-distance debut then won over 2100m at Tauranga and over 2200m at Te Rapa.
With that staying form on the board, the Makfi five-year-old has been nominated for the Group One Auckland Cup at Ellerslie on March 18.
Irish Moon also holds a group one nomination at Ellerslie, for the Sistema Railway on New Year’s Day, and will press toward that goal, needing to show its best form to get a crack at the feature in which the horse finished seventh last season.