Heavy Etah James chasing winning hat-trick but Cumani has doubts

Linda Meech and the Matt Cumani-trained Etah James will be shooting for a hat-trick at Caulfield.

Trainer Matt Cumani has high hopes for promising stayer Etah James despite wondering whether she’s fit enough to complete a winning hat-trick at Caulfield.

Etah James is the $4.20 favourite for Saturday’s Blue Star Print Group Handicap (2420m) following victories at Geelong and Ballarat.

Cumani is considering an autumn preparation for the mare who has won four of her six starts to date.

At her last start over 2300m at Ballarat, Etah James ploughed through the soft conditions to score a half-length win with Cumani saying she needed every yard of the distance.

What worries Cumani is that Etah James carries a lot of weight which he believes leaves her lacking in fitness.

But what she might lack in fitness she certainly makes up for with class.

“I’ve certainly learnt a lot from this prep going into next prep,” Cumani said.

“I’m not going to allow her to go into it so heavy.

“I’m loathe to reduce the feed on her at this stage of her campaign and I don’t want to work her any harder because she’s handling what she’s doing now well.

“At this stage you don’t want to tire them out and it’s a case of seeing how far we can get on her current state.”

Cumani said he would be tempted after Saturday’s performance to give her a short break and prepare the five-year-old for a shot at the better staying races in the autumn.

He said that was his preferred option rather than a start in the Bagot Handicap at Flemington on New Year’s Day.

“I’d like to see her take that next grade up and look for some nice autumn races,” he said.

Etah James rises 2.5kg for her win at Ballarat and Linda Meech again rides the mare on Saturday having ridden her to victory at her past two starts.

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