Unbeaten three-year-old December stamped himself as a galloper to watch over the next few months after taking the next step in his development at Wanganui on Saturday.
The strapping son of Shamexpress had won both of his trials for trainers Roger James and Robert Wellwood before stepping out on debut at Tauranga earlier in the month where he raced clear in the home straight to win handsomely.
Starting a prohibitive $1.50 against his own age-group on Saturday, December didn’t have things all his own way in the home straight where he was hotly challenged by It’s Amelia and Valentine before drawing away to win by a length in the 1200m contest under rider Tegan Newman.
James was keen to hear Newman’s post-race report and got the answers he was looking for.
“He has a fair bit to learn and I think that showed as he seemed to get lost when he got out in the middle of the track in the run home,” James said.
“Tegan confirmed that as she said when he got to the front he gave a good kick but then started to lose concentration and just drift around a little.
“What was very pleasing to hear was that she felt there were still plenty of gears left and when he was challenged he really dug in and had a lot more to give.
“He is doing everything at present on raw ability and to be honest we are learning as we go just as he is.
“He has had the two trials and two raceday outings now and is unbeaten so he could be a pretty smart customer in the making.”
While James believes there is still a long way to go in terms of maturity and ringcraft for his charge, he is eyeing the Group 1 Levin Classic (1600m) at Trentham on January 13 as a potential target.
“He is so laidback at home we’re not sure just what he is capable of at this stage,” he said.
“He gives me plenty of confidence he can get to 1400m and a mile as he just does what he has to, but after that I’m not really sure.
“He holds a nomination for the Levin Classic and if he continues to develop the way he has then he could well end up running in that one.”
The Shamexpress gelding is a half-brother to the Group One performer Chambord and was a $280,000 purchase from the 2022 New Zealand Bloodstock Ready to Run Sale at Karaka. He is also closely related to former Hong Kong Group One winners The Duke and Sky Field.
James was also pleased with another of his stable runners at Pukekohe on Saturday where durable stayer Dionysus finished an unlucky third behind One Bold Cat and Aromatic in the Group 3 Counties Cup (2100m).
“We thought he (Dionysus) would go a good race and I think with a little more luck early in the run home he could have pushed the first two a little harder,” James said.
“Joe Doyle rode him and said he just lost his momentum at a vital stage when he was trying to get underneath Aquacade in the run home.
“When that happened the first two were making their runs out wider and had a full head of steam so to pick himself up and charge after them was a very good effort.
“He has hit his straps now so we will look at a few of the Cup races coming up over the summer for him.”