Roger James is excited to be back on Australian soil for the first time in 18 months.
The trans-Tasman travel bubble has allowed the Cambridge trainer to travel to Sydney with stable runner Two Illicit, and soon to be Queensland for a three-race campaign.
It is Two Illicit’s first trip across the Tasman and James said the four-year-old mare is not the best traveller.
“I wouldn’t say she is the most relaxed traveller, she does stress a bit travelling and it is made worse this year because we don’t have a direct flight into Brisbane, so she has a 12 or 13-hour trip on the transporter ahead of her as well,” James told SENTrack.
But he is pleased with the way she has handled the first leg of the trip.
“When she got here she has relaxed well and I think we can present at the Gold Coast without needing that (travel) as an excuse,” said James, who trains in partnership with Robert Wellwood.
“She had a light trot and canter yesterday and today. She is very relaxed in her box here at John Thompson’s and she gets on the transporter at 6pm tonight.”
Two Illicit’s first assignment will be the Gr.2 Hollindale Stakes (1800m) at the Gold Coast on Saturday, where she will meet compatriots Melody Belle and Tiptronic.
Two Illicit returned with a first-up third-placing over 1400m at Te Rapa last month and James believes she is back in the same vein of form that led her to three stakes victories and a second-placing in the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) as a three-year-old.
“I don’t think she was at her best in the spring. We had a couple of little issues, but I believe she is where we want her to be and issue free,” James said.
“She hadn’t had a jumpout or trial (ahead of her first-up run last month) and she carried 61.5kg over 1400m, an unsuitable distance, and ranged right into it to win at the furlong and understandably blew out, as I expected. She ran third and has come on enormously with the run, I believe.
“I think she is more in the order that she was in the autumn of her three-year-old year.”
James said she will appreciate the step-up in distance on Saturday, but will favour even more ground in her subsequent Queensland targets.
“I think the three weight-for-age races – the Hollindale, Doomben Cup, and the Q22- look ideal races for her,” he said.
“We are getting to a distance she is more known for, and I think 2000m and 2200m will suit her even better.”
The Gold Coast track is currently rated a Heavy8 and James is hoping for improvement ahead of the weekend.
“I wouldn’t like to see it remain heavy,” he said. “She can operate on a soft track, but heavy I am not certain.” – NZ Racing Desk