Confidence is high ahead of Zabeel gelding Von Tunzelman’s return to middle-distance racing in Saturday’s Gr.3 Mills Reef Trentham Stakes (2100m).
The Roger James-trained five-year-old has had four previous starts at 2000 metrm or further for two wins – one in the Listed Kaimai Stakes (2000m) at Matamata last February – a second placing in the Hamilton Cup (2000m) at Te Rapa and a sixth placing in last March’s Gr.1 New Zealand Stakes (2000m) at Ellerslie.
The NZ Stakes was the last time the Brendan and Jo Lindsay-bred and raced Von Tunzelman raced past 1800 metres.
“We would have liked him to draw a bit closer [than barrier 11] to get a softer run, but the whole stable is pretty excited to see him up over a middle-distance again,” said James’ racing manager Robert Wellwood.
A winner of five of his 17 starts, Von Tunzelman campaigned in Melbourne last spring, finishing fifth in the Gr.3 Eclipse Stakes (1800m) at Sandown, before returning to Cambridge to prepare for summer racing.
He resumed with an eye-catching seventh in the Gr.2 Rich Hill Mile (1600m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day.
“It was a super run,” said Wellwood. “He probably looked a bit flat-footed at the 600 [metres], but he’s let down enormously. His last 600 was one of the quickest in the race.
“He galloped on Tuesday and it was super work. He’s come through the race well and he’s progressing well.
“We freshened him up since coming back from Aussie and the step up in distance will suit him better. We’re pretty confident.”
Wellwood said James would assess Von Tunzelman’s Trentham Stakes performance before considering options that include the Gr.3 Windsor Park Stud City of Auckland Cup (2400m) at Ellerslie on January 27, the Gr.1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) at Te Rapa on February 10 and a title defence of the Listed Marks Ewen & Associates Kaimai Stakes (2000m) at Matamata on February 24.
Von Tunzelman also holds a nomination for the Gr.1 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup (3200m) at Ellerslie on March 10.
“If he’s racing like a stayer, we could look at the City of Auckland Cup, but we’ll get this race over first and know further where he’ll head afterwards,” said Wellwood.
TAB bookmakers opened Von Tunzelam as a $4.80 second favourite for the Trentham Stakes behind Devise. – NZ Racing Desk