A week into Covid-19 lockdown, Robert Wellwood, who trains in partnership with Roger James, is pleased when reflecting on the success of the stable this season.
In just his second term in partnership with James, Wellwood is coming to terms with the season being halted but takes several positives from what the duo have achieved and has an eye to the future.
“It is a very different feeling,” Wellwood said. “I haven’t been waking up at 3am, that’s for sure.
“You can take a look at the positives, like re-charging the batteries, but it is very weird not going to the stables and seeing all the horses every day.
“We made the decision to shut the stable down and it was a big day or so of figuring out where each horse would spell and letting the owners know.
“We made sure that each agistment property was going to have on-farm staff that could ensure the horses are cared for to the highest standard and really it all happened within a couple of days.
“Probably until the first day of lockdown I didn’t get my head around the magnitude of what had happened.
“It was heart-breaking to see the last horse go out of the stable, but it was the right thing to do and I believe that doing this sooner rather than later means we will be back racing sooner rather than later as well.”
The Kingsclere Stable had sent out the winners of 25 races and were on target to better their tally of 30 victories from last season, with a healthy strike-rate of a winner every 5.72 runners, all while building towards a Trans-Tasman crescendo.
“We have certainly had a good season to date, probably highlighted by Two Illicit,” Wellwood said.
“Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to win the New Zealand Derby (2nd, Gr.1, 2400m) but even the fact that we had three horses in the top six of the Derby was something to be pretty proud of.
“We have got a great team of staff and a good group of owners and it makes the job a lot easier.
“It was gutting to watch the races from Sydney last weekend, knowing that we had two or three horses primed and ready to go, but I think Covid-19 is bigger than racing and bigger than our stable.
“We were happy with the way things were going and again we have really nice two-year-olds and hopefully we can improve on it again next season.”
Wellwood said the dynamic between he and James meant the duo worked terrifically in tandem.
“He’s obviously got a wealth of experience and is clearly a very good trainer and a very good horseman,” Wellwood said.
“We just work well together, be it with owners or be it with horses. We think quite similarly, and we have good, open communication which keeps everything running smoothly, in addition to the great team around us.”
The stars of the James and Wellwood stable include stakes horses Two Illicit, Rondinella, Concert Hall, Sherrif and Hypnos, while three-year-old gelding Monlula also ran well when fifth in the New Zealand Derby.
Wellwood confirmed that fellow three-year-old Reggiewood, who finished sixth in the New Zealand Derby would likely continue his future abroad after being sold to Hong Kong interests.
The next generation trainer said if there is a silver-lining to the lockdown, it is the benefit of time for all horses.
“Most horses benefit from time, that is basically the rule of thumb,” he said.
“Horses like Two Illicit and Monlula are horses that would have probably gone to Australia to take benefit from racing in their age group.
“Who knows, maybe not going to Australia, in hindsight when we get to the spring will be of benefit.
For now, Wellwood is maximising his free-time.
“I have got a few books to read from the masters of the trade and it gives us a lot of time to plan for the future.
“Racing will probably look a bit different going forward, but this gives us a good amount of time to think about adjustments and plan ahead with an eye on spring.”