Mark Twain out to strengthen trainers’ carnival claims

  • user
  • February 26, 2024
  • No Comments

By Richard Edmunds, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Roger James and Robert Wellwood already have the $1.40 favourite for the Gr.1 Trackside New Zealand Derby (2400m), and a trip to Otaki this weekend could earn them an even greater share of the spotlight during the upcoming Ellerslie carnival.

James and Wellwood’s impressive last-start winner Mark Twain will run in Saturday’s $50,000 New World Otaki New Zealand St Leger Trial (2300m), which he will use as a lead-up to the $500,000 Gr.2 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup (3200m) on March 9.

Mark Twain showed real ability as a three-year-old last season, winning twice before flashing home for fourth in Sharp ‘N’ Smart’s New Zealand Derby at Te Rapa. The son of Shocking finished midfield in the Gr.1 Australian Derby (2400m) on a heavy Randwick track at the beginning of April, then was given a long break by James and Wellwood.

After resuming with a fourth over 1400m on November 30 and then a third over 2040m on January 11, Mark Twain took a big step forward with a brilliant finishing burst from well off the pace to win a 2100m Rating 75 at Te Rapa on February 10.

The TAB now rates Mark Twain a $7 chance for the Auckland Cup, sharing second favouritism with his stablemate Dionysus. The $5 favourite is last weekend’s Gr.2 Avondale Cup (2400m) winner Asterix.

Wellwood reported on Friday that Kingsclere Stables has been pleased with Mark Twain’s progress through the early stages of his four-year-old campaign.

“He’s still learning how to do things in the right fashion, but if he gets a bit of luck and the gaps appear at the right times, he does possess a very good turn of foot,” he said. “He showed that at Te Rapa and won quite impressively.

“We’ve been really happy with him since that race. He’s in grand order and is working well.”

James and Wellwood entered Mark Twain for three different races this weekend, including the Listed Matamata Veterinary Services Equine Kaimai Stakes (2000m) at Matamata, but picked out the St Leger Trial as the best Auckland Cup lead-up.

“We nominated him in a few different races, just trying to work out what might suit him best leading into the Auckland Cup in a couple of weeks’ time,” Wellwood said. “There were a couple of reasons why we ended up opting for this race. One is that it’s probably the most suitable distance at 2300m, and another factor is the smaller field. He drew wide in that big field at Matamata and would have had to get a long way back. This race just looked like the most suitable step for him as we work towards an Auckland Cup.”

Mark Twain will be joined at Otaki by his stablemate Achieve, who will line up in the Harcourts Otaki Handicap (2200m).

The daughter of Pierro placed in the Gr.2 David & Karyn Ellis Fillies’ Classic (2000m), Gr.3 Eulogy Stakes (1600m) and Gr.3 Sunline Vase (2100m) as a three-year-old. She struggled for consistency in her four-year-old campaign last season, but has shown promise with two placings from her three starts so far in this new preparation.

“We’ve been really happy with her,” Wellwood said. “She’s an honest mare who we think will be suited by the 2200m on Saturday. We’re hoping she’s not far away from putting her hoof in the till.”

Meanwhile, Wellwood has mixed feelings leading into next Saturday’s New Zealand Derby at Ellerslie. The stable’s star filly Orchestral has towered over the prestigious classic since her dominant performance in the Gr.2 Avondale Guineas (2100m) last weekend.

“It’s a very exciting position to be in, although it’s a bit nerve-racking as well,” he said. “But she just keeps getting better and better as we go along, and last weekend was quite a special performance to watch.

“At this stage we’re really happy with how her Derby build-up has gone. She’ll probably gallop in the morning, and then we may not have to do much more with her through the week leading into the race.” – LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.