Cambridge horseman Roger James is confident heading towards the 2016 Queensland Derby next month with his in-form Kiwi raider The Hassler who will debut down under Saturday week.
James opted to bypass last weekend’s Group 3 Rough Habit Plate (2000m) and will give his progressive son of 2009 Melbourne Cup winner Shocking a first Australian run in the $150,000 Group 3 Grand Prix Stakes (2200m) at Doomben on May 28.
That gives The Hassler two more weeks into his main aim during the Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival, the $600,000 Group 1 Queensland Derby (2400m) at Eagle Farm Racecourse on Stradbroke Handicap Day.
“It’s two weeks from the Grand Prix Stakes to the Derby. I didn’t think we needed to rush over there and take in the Rough Habit Plate and the Grand Prix Stakes before the Derby,” James told AAP.
“The Grand Prix fits well and he’s done enough here.”
Two of the past four Queensland Derby winners came off a Grand Prix Stakes run with both Brambles (2012) and Hawkspur (2013) completing the double.
Current futures Queensland Derby betting markets at Ladbrokes.com.au are firmly led by the Chris Waller-trained Rough Habit Plate winner Mackintosh ($2.80), Waller chasing a second win after the success of the aforementioned Hawkspur three years ago.
The Hassler meanwhile can be found further down the all-in Queensland Derby odds at $26, a price sure to firm if he shows up and runs well in the Grand Prix Stakes on Doomben 10,000 Day.
Ninth to Rangipo in the Group 1 NZ Derby (2400m) in early March, The Hassler has won his two subsequent runs including a good effort in the Group 2 Championship Stakes (2100m) at Ellerslie on April 23.
James is also hoping to get his filly Romantic Maid into the $500,000 Group 1 Queensland Oaks (2400m) field at Eagle Farm on June 4, but is less confident she’ll make the cut.
The nicely-bred daughter of High Chaparral has had five runs for two wins to date.
She had a run in Sydney at Rosehill on May 7 over 1900m when four lengths away third to Encosta Line and is a dual nominee across two states over the coming week.
The preferred option on way to the Queensland Oaks is a run in the traditional lead-up at Doomben on Saturday, the $175,000 Group 2 The Roses (2000m), which offers an automatic Oaks entry to the winner.
Romantic Maid however is 21st on The Roses ballot and needs a notable attrition rate to make the capacity 16-starter field.
As a Plan B option James also has her nominated for Wednesday’s $40,000 PKF Handicap (2000m) where she is drawn wide in gate 13 in the mid-week BenchMark 70.
Wherever she runs, James will add blinkers to her gear after getting feedback from jockey Michael Rodd off her last start.
“I was satisfied, but I thought she might have done better,” James said.
“Michael Rodd felt she was very much in need of blinkers.
“We haven’t had that feedback before, but it might be as a result of what happened when she clipped heels at Ellerslie.”
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