Quality stayer Dionysus will be chasing a memorable victory at Trentham on Saturday for his local connections.
The son of Ocean Park will strip at the top of his game for the Gr.3 NZ Campus of Innovation & Sport Wellington Cup (3200m) for trainers Roger James and Robert Wellwood.
Dionysus is raced by Ron and Fran Dixon, who have been loyal clients of the stable and with long-standing ties to racing in the capital city.
“Ron and Fran were Roger’s first owners and Ron’s been President of the Wellington Racing Club so it would be very special to see him lift the Wellington Cup,” Wellwood said.
“The weight (57kg) is not going to make it easy, but apart from that he has drawn well and Warren (Kennedy, jockey) knows him.”
Kennedy was aboard Dionysus last time out when they claimed top honours in the Gr.3 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2400m) at Te Rapa on New Year’s Day.
“The horse is in great form and in great condition. He has bounced through his last win very well and his work has been superb so we are going into the race very happy with him,” Wellwood said.
Dionysus and stablemates and race rivals Contemplation and Pinion are all newcomers at the distance, but there is confidence they will cope.
“Certainly with Dionysus, he has run out a mile and a-half strongly and you’d be foolish to leave the other two out, they are in good form and Contemplation was good the other night when he was beaten by a pretty smart horse,” Wellwood said.
Contemplation finished runner-up to Zee Falls in the Karaka Stayers’ Cup (2200m) at Pukekohe and Craig Zackey will retain the mount.
He is a two-time winner, as is barnmate Pinion who was a close second over 2200m on the course at his most recent appearance and will be partnered by Niranjan Parmar.
“Pinion was very good at Trentham and probably had to use himself from the barrier early on. He is tough and honest and, while you don’t know until you try, we don’t think the distance will be a problem for our horses,” Wellwood said.
Dionysus has the form on the board at Group level and he’s considered the stable’s best prospect on the card, provided he gets his preferred good footing.
“It depends a bit on the weather and we’ve got some nice chances, but Dionysus seems the obvious one,” Wellwood said.
“If they don’t get any of the rain that is forecast, we think Western Springs will be a big show as well.”
Western Springs will run in the John Turkington Forestry Douro Cup (1600m) and a step up in distance looks ideal for him.
The four-year-old was a first-up winner at Te Rapa in the spring before he was unplaced on a wet track at Te Rapa. He then found the line strongly at Trentham when into the clear over 1400m at to run an eye-catching fifth.
Meanwhile, crack filly Prowess has breezed through her winning run in the Listed Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) and a decision has yet to be made whether she runs next in the Gr.2 David & Karyn Ellis Fillies’ Classic (2000m) or the Gr.1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) at Te Rapa on February 11.
“Nothing has been confirmed yet, we will almost certainly run her on that day but whether it’s the fillies’ race or the Herbie Dyke we’re not 100 percent sure yet,” Wellwood said.
“She has come through the race in nice order and we haven’t sat down with the owners yet to see which way we go.” – NZ Racing Desk