Lady Cumquat's last-start win in the Gr. 3 Manawatu Classic came as no surprise to trainer Roger James, who knew just how good her trackwork leading into the race had been.
The Duke Of Marmalade filly makes her Australian debut in Saturday's Gr. 3 A$200,000 Adrian Knox Stakes (2000m) at Randwick and James says her trackwork this week has been just as good.
Lady Cumquat galloped at Cambridge on Tuesday and flew to Sydney on Wednesday arriving late that night.
She still made an appearance at Randwick on Thursday morning, cantering a lap of the track in more an exercise of familiarity than fitness building.
"She had her first look at the track this morning. She only arrived at 11 o'clock last night but she's settled in as good as we could expect in the first 12 hours," James said.
"She worked at home on Tuesday morning on the course proper with Zonza and it was very good work. I expect her to be a winning chance if she handles the heavy track conditions.
"I've always thought this filly wouldn't mind the cut out of the track, but the cut out of the track and a heavy track are two totally different things, especially as she's in the last race of the day."
James has booked leading Sydney jockey Nash Rawiller to ride Lady Cumquat, whose half-sister Full Of Spirit he trained to win the Adrian Knox in 2012 for jockey James McDonald before finishing fourth in the Gr. 1 Australian Oaks (2400m) a week later.
Lady Cumquat won't be asked to complete the same double, however, with James confirming the filly would return to Cambridge next Monday no matter how she fared.
"She'll come home on Monday and then we'll prepare her for the Queensland Oaks," James said.
The Gr. 1 A$400,000 Queensland Oaks (2400m) is run at Eagle Farm on May 31 and is a race James won with Giovana in 2000.
Lady Cumquat, raced by her breeder Peter Newsom and his Sydney mates Tony Wales and Mac Whitehouse, became James' sixth winner of the Manawatu Classic (2000m) at Awapuni on March 29, following Majestic Angel in 1985, Limerick in 1998, Spottswoode in 2000, Congrats in 2006 and Valpolicella in 2008.
Full Of Spirit won on the Manawatu Classic undercard before her Adrian Knox win and James compared her younger half-sister Lady Cumquat favourably to that Flying Spur mare.
"They are different types really. The other mare was a very aggressive mare whereas this filly is a lot more laid-back." James said.
Lady Cumquat opened as a $5 favourite in Australia, a sign of the respect bookmakers and punters have for the potent force James and Rawiller have become this autumn.
Last week the combination produced another memorable big-race triumph when Silent Achiever reprised her Gr. 1 Ranvet Stakes win from a fortnight earlier in downing champion Kiwi galloper It's A Dundeel to land the Gr. 1 The BMW (2400m) at Rosehill.
James has yet to decide between dropping Silent Achiever back in distance to the Gr. 1 A$4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Randwick on Saturday week or sticking to his original plan and tackling the Gr. 1 A$1 million Sydney Cup (3200m) the same day.
"I'm waiting till the end of the week to make a decision, probably Saturday morning," James said.
"If she goes to the Cup, she'll gallop Saturday morning. If she's going to the Queen Elizabeth, she won't. She's thriving, really bouncing, and I'm happy with her. I believe she's come through the BMW just as well as she came through the Ranvet but I'm mindful I tried to drop her back to the Queen Elizabeth last year and it didn't work. I'm a great believer that you place your horses to win."
Silent Achiever's win in the BMW earned her an international rating of 117, placing her among the top 20 gallopers in the world this year.
The O'Reilly mare is now a leading contender for horse of the year honours on both sides of the Tasman.
Meanwhile, James will shoot for domestic Group One success with Zonza in Saturday's $200,000 Manco Easter Handicap (1600m) at Ellerslie.
The Zabeel mare was fourth in the Gr. 2 Japan-New Zealand International Trophy (1600m) at Tauranga last month, chasing home Viadana and Chintz, who have since run first and third in the Gr. 1 New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders' Stakes at Te Aroha last weekend.
"Her last run was very good in behind some really nice horses. This is probably a more even field of up-and-comers," James said.
"I'm pretty happy with her work and she's a fit horse going into it. It's just a shame she's drawn wide."
Leith Innes will ride Zonza, who has drawn barrier 15.
- NZ Racing Desk