Concert Hall’s standing will force her to concede significant amounts of weight to her opposition in Saturday’s Group 2 Avondale Cup (2400m), but connections believe it is the best means to an end for their quality mare.
With a rating of 105, the seven-year-old is head and shoulders above her Ellerslie rivals in the Wallen Concreting-sponsored feature. She will shoulder 59kg and give away 5kg to those closest to her in the handicap and 7kg to the rest of the field.
“She has got a bit of weight and that’s not ideal, but we felt it’s a better race for her than the Herbie Dyke Stakes (Group 1, 2000m) as we want to give her a chance at the Auckland Cup (Group 2, 3200m),” said Robert Wellwood, who trains in partnership with Roger James.
“Going a mile and a-half this weekend suits better, if she had gone to the Herbie Dyke we would probably have had to run her again before the Auckland Cup.
“That’s our main target and at set weights and penalties that really should be a great race for her.”
Successful in last season’s Group 1 Zabeel Classic (2000m), Concert Hall has been in good touch this preparation with victories in the Group 2 Cal Isuzu Stakes (1600m) and the Group 3 City Of Auckland Cup (2400m).
Wellwood said little notice should be taken of her last-start failure in the Group 1 Thorndon Mile (1600m).
“She was dropping back from a mile and a-half to a mile and she had a torrid run from a wide barrier and it was certainly a forgive run. We will head to Saturday with a bit of confidence,” he said.
Meanwhile, Pinarello’s Group 1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) will be on the line when he takes on older opposition on the undercard.
The stable has opted to take a softer route to the classic by bypassing the Group 2 AJC Avondale Guineas (2100m) in favour of the Echochill Handicap (2100m).
“We are just trying to get him ready for the big dance and that’s the best option for him, but he does have to be winning or running a very good race to carry on for the Derby,” Wellwood said.
Pinarello was a smart maiden winner at his second appearance before he finished a last-start third over 1600m.
“He did a few things wrong at Ruakaka and there’s no point in stepping out against the big guns just yet. He’ll have the blinkers on and hopefully he can gain a bit of confidence,” Wellwood said.
The Cambridge training duo will also be represented on Saturday by Camarosa in the Mainland Handicap (1600m) and Violetta in the Dad’s Pies Handicap (1500m).
“They didn’t have much luck last time out. They are both in lovely order and mares with ability so we’re looking forward to them stepping out and hopefully they get a better rub of the green,” Wellwood said.
Camarosa was an easy winner two runs back at Te Aroha before she reared at barrier rise at Ellerslie and did well to finish off for fourth.
Violetta has won one of her four starts and most recently also ran fourth at Ellerslie after an interrupted passage in the straight.