Cambridge trainer Roger James was twice denied in Gr I features on Saturday but emerged feeling well satisfied with his results.
James had Full Of Spirit at Hastings to contest the Gr I Makfi Challenge Stakes (1400m) and was on hand to saddle Silent Achiever in the Gr I New Zealand Bloodstock Memsie Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield.
Full Of Spirit ran up to her best form with a gallant second to Survived in the Hastings weight-for-age feature, while Silent Achiever could easily have finished in the same spot had she not been denied racing room at crucial times in the closing stages of the Memsie, won by glamour comeback mare Atlantic Jewel.
While James was disappointed he hadn’t been able to secure better portions of the stakes at each venue he was thrilled with the runs of both mares, who have further Gr I targets this spring.
In her first run as a five-year-old, Full Of Spirit settled three back on the fence for rider Matthew Cameron and peeled out at the top of the straight and though the winner Survived went past her easily at the top of the straight, she fought gamely in the closing stages to go down a length on the line.
‘‘She hadn’t had a trial, hadn’t raced for a long time, and I thought it was a really game effort,’’ James said.
‘‘She was taking ground off the winner at the line. It was a huge effort. Matt got off and said she hated that ground so it was a really genuine effort.’’
James said Full Of Spirit would go on to contest the Gr I $200,000 Windsor Park Plate (1600m) at Hastings on September 21, where she would again meet Survived and fast-finishing third-placed Final Touch.
‘‘She’s a tough mare and while she had a tough run yesterday, she’s one I think would bounce through it,’’ James said.
‘‘I thought she was a winning chance yesterday till the track deteriorated. She’s a mare that is very dependent on good draws and she almost never got one last year. She had a good draw on Saturday but then the track deteriorated.’’
In Melbourne, Silent Achiever settled three back on the fence and looked full of running turning for home tracking eventual fourth-placed Dundeel.
But Dundeel, himself held up at a crucial stage, couldn’t take her into the race and, by the time he got into the clear, Silent Achiever was caught in behind the fading leader Ajeeb, leaving Stephen Arnold no choice but to take hold of her head and she went to the line untested in 11th place.
‘‘It was a run without any luck. Stephen Arnold is a man of few words but he was very happy with the run,’’ James said.
‘‘Halfway down the straight, he had a handful of horse and nowhere to go. He thought he would have got a good portion of the stakes with a clear run. He felt he would have beaten Dundeel with a clear run.
‘‘He said he was wary that she didn’t need a gutbuster first-up and he was also following the second favourite, so he stayed to the inside but he got stuck behind Dundeel and the weakening leader and in the end he had to lift her head to stop her getting on the heels of anything.
‘‘But it was a lovely run, a far better run than I’d even wished for. She pulled up like she’d only had a canter. She wouldn’t have blown a match out. She’s a mare who is often not a good feeder but she came home and ate up very well for a race night for her.’’
James said Silent Achiever would have her next start in the Gr I A$400,000 Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield on September 21 before tackling either the Gr I A$500,000 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on October 5 or the Gr I A$400,000 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield on October 12 as her final leadup to the Gr I A$2.5 million Caulfield Cup (2400m) on October 19.
The O’Reilly mare will also be among the entries for November’s A$6.2 million Melbourne Cup (3200m) when they close tomorrow.
James yesterday flew to Sydney to put the finishing polish on Full Count ahead of his Australian debut in a A$40,000 Benchmark 67 three-year-old 1550m race at Canterbury on Wednesday.
The last-start Avondale winner could progress to the Gr III A$200,000 Gloaming Stakes (1800m) at Rosehill on September 28 and the Gr I A$400,000 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) at Randwick on October 12 before heading for Melbourne, where he could contest the Gr I A$1.5 million Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington on November 2.
- Waikato Times