Roger James is aiming to tame the west.
The Cambridge trainer has racked up 24 Gr I wins in an already memorable career, adding elite-level wins in New South Wales (twice), South Australia and Queensland to the 20 he has won at home.
He was a co-trainer of 1987 Canterbury Guineas winner Tidal Light and produced Sixty Seconds to win the 2002 Arrowfield Stud Stakes at Randwick for his two Sydney Gr I wins, while Cronus' 1997 Adelaide Cup success and Giovana's Queensland Oaks success in 2000 gave him further interstate success in Australia.
While a Victorian Gr I triumph has eluded him, among James' six Gr II wins in Australia are Zonda's Alister Clark Stakes triumph in 1998 and Piper Star's Carlyon Cup success in 2002.
Tomorrow he will attempt to claim his first Gr I scalp in Western Australia when he saddles He's Remarkable in the A$1 million Railway Stakes (1600m) at Ascot.
"I've won Gr I races in three states of Australia and Gr II races in Victoria but I've never had a runner in Western Australia before,'' James said yesterday.
"The Railway is definitely the biggest race in Western Australia. They have three Gr I races here but the Railway is regarded as the real deal.''
Pentire four-year-old entire He's Remarkable earned his trip to Perth with a tenacious last-start win at Flemington, his fifth win from 14 starts to take his earnings past $330,000.
No New Zealand-trained galloper has won a Gr I race in Perth since the Ian Steffert-owned and trainer Magistrate won the Perth Cup (3200m) in successive years in 1981 and 1982, both times ridden by Bob Skelton. He became the oldest New Zealand-trained Gr I winner when he won his second Perth Cup at 10.
Battle Heights won the 1974 Cox Stakes (2400m) in Perth for owner-trainer Tim Douglas but jarred up and was unplaced in the Perth Cup.
Few others have tried. But He's Remarkable's win in the A$100,000 Visit Victoria Stakes (1600m) at Flemington a fortnight ago was a consolation prize after he missed a start in his target race, the A$1 million Emirates Stakes (1600m) at Flemington the same day was enough to convince James a Perth trip was worthwhile.
"I though it was a very good run,'' James said.
"[Jockey] Kerrin McEvoy was very taken with it and it was him that probably has given me the confidence to make the trip. He was very bullish and very keen to ride him as soon as I mentioned over here.
"The sectionals compared very favourably with the Emirates and the winner of the Emirates [Albert The Fat] carried five kilos less. It was a big effort really.
"To come so close to making the [Emirates] field and then to put up a performance like that with 59 kilos, it would have been lovely if we'd been in the main race with 52[kg]. But we weren't and this is a good alternative.''
James conceded he had managed He's Remarkable's preparation to have him at his peak for Emirates Stakes day but he was confident the horse was still in the right shape to win tomorrow.
"You aim to peak for a day and we got it pretty right that day,'' James said.
"But the next morning I trotted him up before I left for the airport and it was as if he was on springs. He licked out a huge feed that night and Lance [Macfarlane, travelling attendant] rang me the next day and said he was pretty fresh.
"What I didn't realise was that the Doncaster wasn't till the 21st of April next year so we had a lot more time up our sleeves, and also I spoke with the New South Wales handicapper and he told me that at his present rating he wouldn't have made the Doncaster field last year.
"We're able to get him in the paddock within a week of racing here and still have a month in the paddock and four months preparation for the Doncaster.
"All in all, it made it an obvious decision to come and I've got no reason to think he can't be in similar order to Flemington. Certainly everything about him indicates he can. The horse is very settled and if he's all right, we're all right.''
Australia's TAB Sportsbet has He's Remarkable as a $6.50 third favourite for the Railway, behind Perth gallopers Ranger ($3.60) and Luckygray ($5.50).
"The two favourites deserve their place in the market. Their form is excellent and they look at the top of their game,'' James said.
"The general feeling from the knowledgeable people here is that they are horses that could have competed well in melbourne but with the amount of money that was on offer here, they chose not to make the trip and aim for these races. I don't think you can downplay the West Australian form at all.''
- Waikato Times