Talented six-year-old Sherrif (NZ) (High Chaparral) heads off on a journey on Saturday that could yet see him tackle the Gr.1 Livamol Classic (2040m) at Hastings on October 17.
The starting point is the Colchester Engineering 1400 at Matamata, a race where the High Chaparral gelding will be confronted with a heavy track and 62kg to carry.
Despite those unfavourable factors, Cambridge trainer Roger James is happy with Sherrif’s fitness and overall condition after two placed trials, at Te Rapa in July and Taupo last week.
“Both trials were very good,” said James, who trains in partnership with Robert Wellwood.
“I’ve been really happy with him. He’s a horse who has always shown me well above average ability. He’s from a family that has proven to take time to develop but I’m happy with him now as I’ve ever been, from how he is in his action to how he is mentally.
“He’s well capable of winning a really nice race, hopefully even in Australia eventually, though that won’t be until the autumn at the earliest. But we’re hoping he can tell us that’s the level he should be competing at.
“He’s in a favourable place in the handicaps now. We’re hoping he can get into the field for the Group One (Livamol Classic) on the last day at Hastings but he’ll be well-placed in the handicaps for those middle distance Cups races too.”
Sherrif has won five of his 11 starts, including the Gr.3 Manawatu Classic (2000m) at Awapuni as a three-year-old.
While the lack of a more-recent stakes win has him well down the order of entry for the Livamol Classic, his rating of 88 makes him the benchmark runner for Saturday’s race at Matamata.
“Carrying 62 kilos on a heavy track won’t be easy. He’ll run a good race but winning this weekend might be beyond him,” James said.
“We’ll just putter through the spring with Hastings as the aim but if not, we’ve got those late spring and summer Cups races in our sights. He’s still in the Windsor Park Plate (1600m Group One at Hastings on October 3) but what we do with him depends on how he races.”
James and Wellwood will also produce two-win Sacred Falls mare Love Struck (NZ) in the Jimmy Neal Electrical 1400 and Ocean Spirit in the Wrightway Builders 1400 at Matamata.
“Love Struck is above average. She does handle a cut in the ground and her first-up run was good. If she does handle the heavy track, she’ll run well. Ocean Spirit does handle a wet track and his first-up run had merit. He covered a lot of ground and never had a rest.”
James said punters could expect more runners to step up from Kingsclere Stables in the coming weeks.
“We’ve only had four runners so far since lockdown but from now on we’ll be getting more to the races. September is normally our launching time,” he said.
“After lockdown ended, we didn’t rush them back because it wasn’t the time to be doing that. But they are all coming to fitness nicely. We didn’t have a horse in the stable for seven and a half weeks.
“What it does mean is that horses that would have trialled in the autumn as two-year-olds didn’t trial and they will take an extra trial in the spring to get them up to speed.”
Meanwhile, James revealed the Livamol Classic as the main target for Two Illicit (NZ) (Jimmy Choux), a winner of the Gr.2 Royal Stakes (2000m) at Ellerslie and the Gr.2 Waikato Guineas (2100m) at Te Rapa before her second placing in the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie last season.
“Going from age-group three-year-old fillies company to weight-for-age company in Melbourne in the spring as a four-year-old is a huge jump. The owners are happy to putter through the spring and if her form warrants it, we’ll target the Livamol Classic for her too.”