Saturday's $85,000, Group 2, New Zealand Bloodstock Concorde Handicap (1200m) is one of the form races heading into the Group 1 Railway Stakes (1200m) on New Year's Day.
The race has attracted a good field of 12 runners all vying for the Group 2 title with most trying to take a step closer to the Group 1 sprints early in the new year.
In a very even field it is hard to look past the Peter McKay trained Vincent Mangano (No Excuse Needed x Rationable). He won the Listed Pegasus Stakes in Canterbury before running a strong fourth to Coup Align in the Group 3 Stewards Stakes; and with only 53.5 kilograms on his back, he is well placed in the race.
The Keith and Gavin Opie trained Sandblaster (Sandtrap x Society Bay) is another that brings strong form into the race. He won the Listed Timpson Family Trust Sprint in early November beating fellow runners Miss Raggedy Ann, Beautiful Girl and Vonusti. He was subsequently beaten a nose by Italian Princess in the Listed Counties Bowl at his last start but he is racing well and a win would come as little surprise.
Rated a $12 chance in the Railway, Beautiful Girl (Black Minnaloushe x Piccadilly Lily) has shown plenty of promise throughout her career. Trained by Yves Seguin, she is the winner of seven and was unlucky in the Listed Timpson Family Trust Sprint being blocked late in her run to the post. She will be looking for a bit more luck this start and will be putting in an honest effort.
The Group 1 winner of last season's Telegraph Handicap, Vonusti (Ustinov x Reasonably), will be looking to take some winning form into the country's premier sprints. His run in the Group 3 Lion Red Plate was very good for second behind Twilight Savings and he ran on nicely in the Listed Timpson Family Trust Sprint last start. With a strong course and distance record, trainers Tim and Margaret Carter will be keen to see him put in a big performance on Saturday.
While Pinsoir (Pins x Variety Star) has not been seen at the races since May this year, trainer Paul Duncan has given the eight-year-old a solid preparation for the race with three trials to get him ready. Already a winner of seven races and over $245,000 in stakes, he will be one to watch.
The Andrew Scott trained Miss Raggedy Ann (Faltaat x Miss Pollyanna) is another with a good claim in the race. She too ran home well in the Timpson Family Trust Sprint last start, finishing less than a length away in fourth position. She is another that is sure to enjoy the Ellerslie course and the distance.
Two very solid performers in Jacowils (Diamond Express x Patch My Eye) and Richard Beymer (Volksraad x Westside Story) have notched up nine and 11 wins respectively with Jacowils winning last season's Railway Stakes. The two top weights in the race are both 1200 metre specialists and will be looking to improve on their last starts as they head towards the Railway Stakes.
Amaryllis (Red Ransom x Lafleur), Ego (E Dubai x Buckling), Attalla (Volksraad x Janus) and Sam's Town (Danehill Dancer x Let's Split) all performed with merit at their last starts and will be looking to add to the winning column in the feature race of the day.
The New Zealand Bloodstock Concorde Handicap (1200m) will be run at Ellerslie Racecourse at 4.31pm. It is the 16th sponsored race so far this season by New Zealand Bloodstock.