Five-year-old Firebolt may be the sole contender for Cambridge-based trained Roger James at this year’s Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival, but the galloper is ready to give it to the Aussies in their first-up run at Doomben’s Racefest meet this Saturday.
Stravinsky gelding Firebolt is engaged to run in the $115,000 Group 3 BRC Chairman’s Handicap (2020m), one of 15 final acceptors for the staying feature.
Firebolt’s trainer James has had his heart set on chasing Group glory in Australia since turning down the opportunity to train in Singapore last season.
Originally he had plans to bring his Group 1 winning mare The Party Stand over along with Firebolt, however the four-year-old New Zealand Stakes champion had her winter campaign shelved after injuring her tendon.
“I’ve only got about 25 in work and I normally bring a few more over each winter,” James said.
“But it’s not the first time as there was a year or two when I didn’t send any horses over.”
James enjoyed success in Australia during the Sydney Autumn Carnival when his star colt Jimmy Choux backed up from their Group 1 New Zealand Derby success back home by travelling down under and winning the Group 1Rosehill Guineas in March.
The son of Thorn Park then faded to finish a well beaten sixth crossing 12 lengths back from upset winner Shamrocker in the Group 1 AJC Australian Derby (2400m).
Firebolt will be looking to recreate the recent Rosehill Guineas glory for James on Saturday and is themselves no stranger to the Australian turf.
The Brisbane Carnival has produced a number of spoils for James, his biggest win in Queensland being with Giovanna in the 2000 Queensland Oaks.
Last winter James also bought middle-distance galloper Firebolt over who won their Australian race debut at Doomben.
Finishing dead-last at their next start at Eagle Farm after rearing at the start and failing to make up the ground, Firebolt then finished second in a Listed race over the mile at the same track before winning a Class 6 Handicap over 1800m in July by four and a half lengths.
The horse then went to Sydney during the spring on the Epsom Handicap path and enjoyed a Group race win when storming home to beat Centennial Park by over three lengths in the Group 2 Shannon Stakes.
“It was a stunning win in the Shannon,” James recalled.
“He sat three and four wide the entire trip and still ran good time (1:28.54 over 1500m).
Firebolt went on to run three more times here last season but failed to finish better than eighth, including their 11th to Captain Sonador in the Epsom when beaten four and a half lengths.
“In the Epsom, he drew wide (barrier 20 of 20) and had to go forward.
“They ran something like 35 seconds for the first 600 metres and he was still there at the 100 metres.
“He was entitled knock up in the Epsom.
“He only had two runs in Melbourne and his form was disappointing.”
Since their last Australian campaign, Firebolt has raced four times in New Zealand.
Three of those runs were also disappointing but he bounced back to form when dropping back in class and winning the Presland Tocker Insurance Premier (1600m) at Te Rapa on April 30.
“When he’s on his A-game he’s hard to beat,” James’ stable foreman Leanne Bertling said of Firebolt after his last-start win.
Brisbane hoop Jim Byrne will take the mount on Firebolt in the Chairman’s Handicap on Saturday, Firebolt one of only two last-start winners in the race along with Royal Reign coming off a victory in the Listed James Squire Tails Stakes (2136m) at Eagle Farm on April 30.
The Te Rapa win was enough to see James pay the first acceptance fee for Firebolt in the $500,000 Group 1 Doomben Cup (2020m) on Saturday week.
However, James is hesitant to map out a finalised winter campaign until Firebolt shows his form on Saturday.
“I haven’t decided on anything yet with him and I’ll wait until after he runs on Saturday,” James said.
There were 18 first acceptors for the Doomben Cup this week, Firebolt currently rated a $71 outsider in the early odds lead by Chris Waller’s European imports Glass Harmonium ($4) and My Kingdom Of Fife ($4.20).
2011 BRC Chairman’s Handicap Final Field & Barrier Draw
|#||Form (Last 10)||Horse||Trainer||Jockey||Barrier||Weight||Hcp. Rating|
|1||945181X404||CROSSTHESTART (NZ)||Bevan Laming||Chris Munce||10||58kg||103|
|2||612574X656||RAINBOW STYLING (NZ)||Michael, Wayne & John Hawkes||Luke Nolen||1||57kg||101|
|3||X10800X001||FIREBOLT (NZ)||Roger James||Jim Byrne||2||55.5kg||98|
|4||0801186919||FEMINA FASHION||Trevor Whittington||Glen Colless||6||54kg||99|
|6||657X877848||COUNT ENCOSTA||John P Thompson||Dwayne Dunn||4||53.5kg||94|
|7||X070425145||HUMMA||Robert Heathcote||Larry Cassidy||5||53.5kg||94|
|8||0X3321X370||VIKING HERO||Michael Moroney||Glen Boss||12||53.5kg||94|
|9||5015431131||ROYAL REIGN (NZ)||William Pholi||Scott Seamer||11||53kg||97|
|10||X032111X77||RAEBURN||Brian Smith||Scott Galloway||13||53kg||92|
|11||287X481800||SAINT ENCOSTA||John P Thompson||Michael Hellyer (a)||7||53kg||92|
|12||X793204122||SHUFFLE THE CASH||Bryan Guy||Eddie Wilkinson||8||53kg||92|
|13||8208X53622||LITTLE STRANGER||Brian Smith||Ryan Wiggins||14||53kg||–|
|14||5X3798X698||WARRIOR WITHIN||Bruce W Hill||Paul Hammersley||9||53kg||79|
|15||01X5221X58||STREETS AWAY (NZ)||Alan Bailey||Matthew Palmer||15||53kg||77|