Ken Kelso isn’t enamored with the prospect of running Princess Kereru on a heavy track at Rotorua on Saturday but he’s even less hung up on the alternatives. The Matamata trainer will saddle Pins six-year-old mare Princess Kereru in Saturday’s Group 3 Sweynesse Stakes (1215m), the weight-for-age conditions of the race making it an attractive first-up assignment for the Group 1 performer.
However, the prevailing heavy track conditions aren’t pleasing the trainer. “We’re very happy with her going into it but concerned with the track,” said Kelso, who trains in partnership with his wife Bev. “I’d like to run. She’s very hard to place because she’s rated 101 so she’d have to cop a bit of weight in a handicap.”
Upcoming open sprints at Pukekohe and Te Rapa are alternative options for Princess Kereru should track conditions force her trainers’ hand but both are handicaps which would likely result with her allotted 60kg rather than the 57kg she carries under weight-for-age at Rotorua. “The aim is to win that elusive Group 1 with her. She went close last year in the Railway and that’s the aim again. We’ll get through the weekend and work out her programme from there,” Kelso said.
A winner of seven of her 25 starts, Princess Kereru went from a Rating 72 win at Rotorua at the corresponding meeting last year through to winning three more races last preparation, including the Group 3 Waikato Stud Plate (1200m) at Ellerslie and the Listed NZB Sprint (1200m) at Hastings as well as running second to Santa Monica in the Group 1 Railway Stakes (1200m) at Ellerslie. “When she won the same day last year it was a Good3 so a bit different to how it will be on Saturday. She’s never raced on a track worse than a Slow8. She does cop a bit of give all right but her ideal conditions are a Dead5,” Kelso said. “She’s had a fantastic year. She surprised us in some ways, mainly because she was so weak early on but she’s just got stronger and stronger. She’s come a long way and her last win at Hastings was as good as any of them when she beat Endless Drama.”
Endless Drama went on to win the Group 2 Easter Handicap (1600m) at Ellerslie and place in the Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) in Brisbane before returning home to snare the spoils in the Group 2 Foxbridge Plate (1200m) at Te Rapa.
Bred and raced by the Humphries family, Princess Kereru has endeared herself to the Kelsos with her courage and competitiveness. “She just keeps upping the bar. She’s got a fantastic temperament, fantastic brain. She’s a pleasure to do anything with. She’s a little dream,” he said. “She’s trialled up well and had an exhibition gallop at Matamata when she worked with Supera. I don’t really know what to expect with her first-up on a wet track but she’s forward enough that she won’t be doing herself any harm. “But whether she can win on that sort of ground, I’m not sure because she’s never raced on it.”
TAB bookmakers opened Princess Kereru as a $3.70 favourite ahead of Malambo at $5 and Dawn Patrol at $5.50.