Roger James will take a walk down memory lane if his highly promising three-year- old Sherrif can live up to expectations in the Group 2 Valachi Downs Championship Stakes (2100m) at Pukekohe on Saturday.
An impressive last-start winner of the Group 3 Manawatu Classic (2000m), Sherrif is on trial for an Australian trip with both Queensland and South Australia in the mix, though James said it is more likely he will head to the latter state.
“I’m tending to lean towards South Australia rather than Queensland,” he said. “If he goes for the Queensland Derby he’d have to run in the Grand Prix beforehand and that could be a run too many.
“By going to South Australia he can go straight in the Derby over there then come home.”
The Group 1 South Australian Derby (2500m) is at Morphettville on May 12, while the Group 3 Grand Prix Stakes (2200m) is not until May 26 and the Group 1 Queensland Derby (2400m) a fortnight later.
Sherrif wasted no time showing his class when following up a trials win a couple of months ago with an impressive debut success over 1400m at Pukekohe then went down a mere head at Te Aroha over 1600m before appreciating the step up to 2000m at Awapuni.
On the strength of that Manawatu Classic performance, he stands out as the horse to beat on Saturday and James, while pleased with his condition going into the Championship Stakes, is hoping for continued improvement in the track rating, which had come back from heavy to a slow8 on Thursday afternoon.
“I’d like to see it come back a bit more, but the High Chaparrals do handle it a bit so I’m banking on that,” he said.
James will also start the lightly tried Concert Hall in the feature and is looking forward to seeing how she performs in the step up from 1600m. “She’s screaming to go over ground and her runs have been excellent,” he said.
“She just hasn’t helped herself as she doesn’t know how to travel in a race yet and it has cost her lengths.
“The track is a little bit of a concern, but her work has been good.”
James has three other runners at Pukekohe on Saturday, the first being Hanger, who races in the same Brendan and Jo Lindsay colours as Sherrif. A son of O’Reily, Hanger capped off a few placings with a comprehensive win at Matamata last month when tried for the first time in side winkers.
“His work has been super and he won with authority last time,” James said.
“I’m concerned with the track for him, but he’ll run if it doesn’t get worse.” James has opted to step Poker Face out of his grade on Saturday, deciding on the rating 75 Lone Star Pukekohe 1600 rather than the rating 65 Mount Shop 1600.
“He’s been carrying big weights and he’ll appreciate the drop in weight,” he said.
Pythagoras will run in the Mount Shop 1600 and be looking to redeem himself after losing all chance last start at Te Aroha with a very slow getaway.
“He blotted his copy book last time by standing in the gates, but he’s been trialled since and has done everything right,” James said. “He’s also been jumping so he’s fit.”