The 56.5kg 2014 Melbourne Cup weight allocated to his classy mare Silent Achiever has Kiwi trainer Roger James in two minds as to whether or not he’ll target the ‘race that stops the nation’ with her this spring.
The $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) has been the long-term goal for the New Zealand-trained daughter of O’Reilly for nearly a year.
But that target may change with James not wanting to ruin the chances of the six-year-old backing up in next year’s Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival to defend her Group 1 crowns in the Ranvet Stakes (2000m) and The BMW (2400m) at Rosehill Gardens.
“With the weight she’s got in the Melbourne Cup, I was pretty excited about getting there with her, but I’m not quite as excited about it now,” James said from Flemington at track work on Tuesday morning.
“We have the autumn to think of and the Melbourne Cup’s not a certainty.
“We beat some pretty handy horses in the autumn and those races are going to be there again but those horses aren’t.
“Sometimes smaller fish are sweet and the Ranvet and the BMW are not exactly small. If you run in a Melbourne Cup, have you got her for those races? I don’t know.”
Earlier this year Silent Achiever boosted her Group 1 tally to four winning that autumn double, her two other elite level victories being back home in New Zealand.
She returned to racing on August 30 at Caulfield then running fourth to Dissident in the Group 1 Memsie Stakes (1400m) in a solid first-up effort over a trip short of her best.
Last start she returned to Caulfield on September 20 and was out of the money again, this time racing flat over the concluding stages of the Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) to finish two lengths away fifth behind Foreteller.
Originally these races were being used as stepping stones into the Melbourne Cup field at Flemington on the first Tuesday of November.
But now spring plans are up in the air for the talented staying mare.
Last Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival Silent Achiever ran 11th in the Memsie Stakes, 6th in the Underwood Stakes, sixth again in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) and then went up to the mile and a half for the Caulfield Cup when eighth to Fawkner.
That’s form James is hoping she can improve on this year despite the Cambridge-based horseman yet to lock in a confirmed Grand Final target.
The 2014 Turnbull Stakes runs at Flemington Racecourse this weekend and Silent Achiever is one of a crack 28 nominations taken for the $500,000 set weights plus penalties clash.
Also in the mix are the likes of 2012 Melbourne Cup winner Green Moon, Chris Waller’s last start George Main Stakes winner Sacred Falls, his Underwood Stakes winning stablemate Foreteller and the in-form 2014 Cox Plate-bound Happy Trails to name a few.
While James isn’t convinced about a Melbourne Cup start with Silent Achiever, she’s being kept safe in betting at Ladbrokes.com.au paying $26 in markets led by Gai Waterhouse’s Sydney Cup winner The Offer ($11).
The only mare to carry more weight to victory than Silent Achiever’s 56.5kg was the mighty Makybe Diva who had 58kg on her back when she won her third ‘Loving Trophy’ in 2005.
That same champion also held the previous weight-carrying Melbourne Cup record for a mare when in 2004 she lumped 55.5kg for the second of her three victories; statistics James is all too aware of.
“You’re going to have to defy some enormous statistics to win a Melbourne Cup,” he said.
“The last modern-day mare to have won a Melbourne Cup with more was Makybe Diva and prior to being allotted more she’d won two Melbourne Cups, a Sydney Cup, a BMW and an Australian Cup.
“I’m not an adamant statistics man, but they’re pretty hard to argue with, those ones.
“I’ve got enormous respect for her, but she’s a good mare without being a great mare in my book.”
Silent Achiever is also nominated for the $3 million Group 1 Crown Golden Ale Caulfield Cup (2400m) on October 18, another staying showdown James isn’t sure about running her in.
After the Caulfield Cup weights are raised, Silent Achiever will also have 56.5kg making the $3 million Group 1 W.S. Cox Plate (2040m) a week later at Moonee Valley under weight-for-age conditions perhaps a more attractive option.
James is delaying his decision until after the Turnbull on Saturday which he has labelled ‘D-day’ for the mare.
“It’s D-day, Saturday,” he said. “A big, roomy track like this and 2000 metres should be ideal for her.”
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