Orchestral may not be Roger James’s best winning chance at Whanganui today but she is his most interesting.
James and training partner Robert Wellwood look in for a productive summer with a team headline by Prowess (spelling) but with plenty of high-powered support, especially in the three-year-old and middle distance/staying ranks.
That three-year-old firepower was graphically displayed at Otaki on Thursday when Zabmanzor blew his rivals away in the Elsdon Park Wellington Stakes, winning by four lengths and looking every inch one of James’s favourite things: a Derby contender.
He and Wellwood take winning chances to both domestic thoroughbred meetings today and James admits he likes the way the stable’s summer is shaping.
“We have some lovely horses here and now there are better track conditions we hope to see the best of them,” he told the Herald.
One horse who looks ideally suited to Whanganui today is Pinion, an on-speed middle distance horse with a good draw which should enable him to keep out of trouble in the Whanganui Cup.
“The race looks ideal, he is down in the weights and we really like him this week,” confirms James.
But as consistent as Pinion is he isn’t the horse James is looking forward to seeing the most at Whanganui today because he loves three-year-old filly Orchestral.
The daughter of Savabeel was the one-time favourite for the 1000 Guineas after a eyecatching win at Hastings in May but she performed below her best back there in September and was given a let-up.
“We think she is really good but this week could be a little short, especially from a wide drawn in a strong field.
“We haven’t given her a trial because we want her here fresh for the 1340m and I’d be surprised if she won but she has the talent to.”
The fillies’ race might outshine the Whanganui Cup as Glamour Tycoon, Oneira, Egyptian Queen and Shoes among others in the race look black type fillies in waiting.
Closer to home James is hoping for a reverse gear change to bring out improvement in Apostrophe in the $100,000 Eagle Technology Stakes at Te Rapa.
Trainers often apply blinkers to get a horse’s mind on the job but James and Wellwood have taken them off Apostrophe as one downside of blinkers is sometimes that can cause horses to miss the start.
Apostrophe has done that and blown her winning chances in her last two outings but James says if she behaves today she is working well enough to get some, if not most, of the money.
The group 3 mile has a confused look to it with many of the best horses out of form and those who head the market, Zaila and El Vencedor, either stepping up in grade or distance.
James believes the stable can start its day with a win in the first at Te Rapa, with Roccia a last-start winner who gets the services of premiership leading jockey Warren Kennedy.
“She is a funny horse but we think Warren suits her because she likes to be left alone and not trying to have somebody organise her too much.
“She won well last start and we know the distance is no issue so she should be hard to beat.”
Top caller gone
One of New Zealand’s best known racing personalities is set to call his last race.
Central Districts commentator Tony Lee has not had his contract renewed by the TAB and will finish calling on Wellington Cup Day, January 20.
The 66-year-old has confirmed the decision was not his and he will be replaced as the Central District caller by Justin Evans, who will return to the region after a stint in the South Island.