Cambridge trainer Roger James switched his sights from the glamour of Sydney racing to a minor meeting at Avondale today, but left the track in a similar happy mood.
Buoyed by the first-up performance of stable star Silent Achiever last Saturday at Randwick, James headed to Avondale believing he had a realistic chance of winning the final race, the Batterby’s Funeral Services 1400.
He had two entrants in the maiden event – Whakatane and Zeus – and believes they both possess the ability to make the grade, but lent towards the former today, believing Zeus would benefit further from the experience.
His judgement proved spot on as Whakatane, in the hands of Leith Innes, got in the deciding strides to beat the hot favourite Marciano by a head, while Zeus settled back and mage ground for fifth.
“He’s a lovely horse, a kind horse,” said James of Whakatane in pre-race discussions. “I don’t think I could have him better.”
Racing in blinkers for the first time, Whakatane did give his supporters some concern over the final stages when turning his head inwards towards the runner-up. That movement almost cost him victory but there is no doubt he has the potential to go further and will take much improvement from the experience.
Whakatane, a four-year-old son of Thorn Park, had been unplaced in his first three trials before finishing sixth on debut at Avondale last April and he was not sighted again until trialling last month when unplaced at Cambridge. He then finished second at the Avondale trials over 1000 metres and was better suited over the 1400 today.
Though James has several talented gallopers in his team, most public attention is focused on Silent Achiever, whose long range target is the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris next October.
Having her first run since finishing third behind Adelaide and Fawkner in the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley last October, Silent Achiever ran fifth in the Gr. 2 A$250,000 Optus Apollo Stakes at Randwick last weekend, two and three-quarter lengths behind the winner, former English galloper Contributer.
It was an effort which pleased James as the mare heads towards richer assignments in Sydney.
“I was thrilled with the run,” he said. “Kerrin (rider Kerrin McEvoy) was a bit hard on himself after the run as he felt he hadn’t given her a soft run. She was three-wide third-last and got flushed to the middle of the track on the point of the turn.
“She found the line very strongly. He was absolutely chuffed with the run and predicted a bright autumn for her.
“I’m most impressed the way she has bounced through it and gone forward.”
Silent Achiever’s next start will be in the Gr. 1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) at Warwick Farm on Saturday week and she will then contest the Gr. 1 Ranvet Stakes, which she won last year. McEvoy will ride her in both features.
- Cambridge JC