A recent injury prevented popular owner-breeder Joan Egan from attending the New Year’s Day races at Ellerslie on Saturday, but her pride and joy Concert Hall gave her a timely boost with a masterful performance in the Gr.3 Skycity City of Auckland Cup (2400m).
The high-class daughter of Savabeel was backing up from the Gr.1 Zabeel Classic (2000m) on Boxing Day, where she made up good late ground from the back of the field in a race dominated by all-the-way winner Tiptronic.
Concert Hall stepped up in distance and down in class on Saturday, albeit with 57.5kgs on her back while most of her rivals were on the 53kg minimum. She was sent out as a $3 second favourite behind her stablemate, the last-start Gr.3 Waikato Cup (2400m) winner Cheaperthandivorce.
But in a quinella for Cambridge trainers Roger James and Robert Wellwood, and also for Waikato Stud sire Savabeel, it was Concert Hall who took top billing.
Ridden by Ryan Elliot, the seven-year-old sat in a handier position this time and swooped out of midfield to take the lead with more than 600m still to run.
Cheaperthandivorce loomed on her outside and gave her all down the straight, but Concert Hall kept her stablemate at arm’s length. She was too tough and too classy, scoring by three-quarters of a length.
“She jumped and settled well,” Elliot said. “We put the pressure on from the 700m mark, and she was too good for them.”
Concert Hall has now won 11 of her 31 starts and banked over $615,000 in stakes. The headline to date was a Group One triumph in the Zabeel Classic in December of 2020, followed a year later by the Gr.2 Cal Isuzu Stakes (1600m) at Te Rapa last month.
“This will be a massive thrill for Joan, who’s at home at the moment nursing a broken ankle,” Wellwood said.
“Concert Hall is a good, tough mare, and she’s a very big and strong mare now. She was the class horse of the field today, and she wasn’t badly off at the weights. She won really well.”
James and Wellwood were also delighted with runner-up Cheaperthandivorce, who has won three out of five this season including the Gr.3 Thompson Handicap (1600m) and Waikato Cup, along with another two placings at Group Three level.
“She’ll go to the paddock now, and I would think you’d see her in a two-mile race at some point in the future,” James said.
“It’s a pleasure to win this race on a day like today. The Auckland and Counties clubs have done a wonderful job with their amalgamation, they’re taking racing to the next level. I felt so sorry for them on Boxing Day, and it’s great to see a good crowd on course here at Ellerslie today.”
Concert Hall is out of the Carnegie mare Classic Legacy, who was bred by Egan from the Sound Reason mare Super Sound.
Concert Hall is the first named foal of her dam, who was raced on lease by Ian and Shelley Wright and won four races from 1600 to 3000m, the furthest of those over hurdles.
James and Wellwood also prepare Concert Hall’s three-year-old half-sister Avalene, with the daughter of Vadamos a debut winner and set to compete in Rating 65 grade at Te Aroha on Monday. – NZ Racing Desk