Wellwood has good opinion of Western Springs

Western Springs
Western Springs will tackle Saturday’s Group 3 Waikato Stud Slipper (1200m) at Matamata. Photo: Grant Matthew (Race Images)

Robert Wellwood reckons he might have a star autumn two-year-old on his hands.

But the Cambridge trainer won’t mind if talented Lonhro colt Western Springs can pick up a late summer feature on the way there.

Western Springs will tackle Saturday’s Group 3 Waikato Stud Slipper (1200m) at Matamata at just his third start but he has already made a strong start to his career with a New Plymouth debut win and a fast-finishing sixth in last month’s $1 million Karaka Million (1200m) at Ellerslie.

“His Karaka Million run was extremely good,” said Wellwood, who trains in partnership with Roger James.

“He ran the fastest last 200m of the race and he was only going into that at his second start and we hadn’t pushed him going in. It was a really good run against the best two-year-olds in the country.

“Vinnie (Colgan, jockey) was really happy with him through the middle stages and especially with the way he hit the line. He’s more a three-year-old in the making but we’re hoping to get to some of those races over 1400m and 1600m in the autumn.

“He might not be quite sharp enough to be winning this weekend over 1200m but as long as he’s hitting the line like he did in the Karaka Million, we’ll be happy.”

While races such as the Group 1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) at Awapuni on April 3 and the Listed Champagne Stakes (1600m) at Ellerslie three weeks later look ideal for the Monovale Holdings-bred, Judy and Ron Wanless-raced colt, Western Springs would come right into contention on Saturday if the race was truly run, Wellwood said.

“A genuine tempo gives him his best chance. He’s drawn nicely (in barrier five) but where he settles depends on how he jumps and we’re wary that there are some pretty sharp, smart two-year-olds in there,” Wellwood said.

TAB bookmakers have Western Springs as a +900 fourth favourite for the Slipper behind Karaka Million winner On The Bubbles at +100, Sword Of State at +180 and debutante Mana Nui at +750.

James and Wellwood will have four runners at Matamata on Saturday, with plenty of interest focussed on Group 1 Zabeel Classic (2000m) winner Concert Hall, who tackles the Lisa Chittick Plate (1400m).

Concert Hall was sensationally late scratched from the Group 3 Taranaki Cup (1800m) earlier this month after she dislodged rider Danielle Johnson at the gates and jumped the outside fence landing on her back. Fortunately she emerged with only superficial injuries.

“She had that incident at the gates at Taranaki which put her preparation on a completely different axis,” Wellwood said.

“We’ve backed off her and have her in over 1400m on Saturday which will be a bit sharp for her, especially as it has come up a stronger field than we expected. But we just want her to have a positive experience at the races again and for her to do everything right and finish the race off nicely.”

Wellwood ruled out backing up Concert Hall in Saturday week’s Group 1 $A1.5 million Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington, suggesting the most likely alternatives were either the Group 1 Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes (2000m) at Ellerslie on March 13 or the Group 3 Epona Stakes (1900m) at Rosehill a week later.

“We’ll take it one race at a time with her,” he said.

The stable’s other runners at Matamata are Sherrif in the Group 3 Matamata Veterinary Services Kaimai Stakes (2000m) and Deep Beauty in the Rich Hill Stud 1400.

“Sherrif is well and his work is always good. He’s been frustrating, just through a lack of early speed in his races. We’ve changed a few things with him, had him jumping logs, and hope that will spark him. He’s capable of winning a race like this on his day.”

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