Despite the disappointment of ruling out stable star Uncommon James from the remainder of his Melbourne campaign, the in-form Steven O’Dea and Matt Hoysted stable are still confident of having a major impact during the Victorian Spring Racing Carnival with Scallopini and last-start winner Shooting For Gold.
After scans confirmed a minor issue with Uncommon James’ near front leg this week, O’Dea and Hoysted decided to err on the side of caution and pull the pin on his preparation, with a view to unleashing the speedster next autumn.
Having announced his huge potential to wider audience with his blistering win in the Listed Regal Roller Stakes at Caulfield, even bigger things had been expected of Uncommon James but the team were not prepared to take any chances with their stable star, particularly given he missed his entire three-year-old season with an unrelated hock injury.
“It’s obviously disappointing for the whole team, but fortunately it’s only a minor issue so we’ll just send him to the paddock and it shouldn’t be a problem moving forward,” said Hoysted.
“That’s the highs and lows of racing for you, but fortunately we still have both Shooting For Gold and Scallopini down in Melbourne and they are going really well for us.”
After a luckless runner-up finish on his Melbourne debut in the Group 3 Aurie’s Star at Flemington, where he was ridden by Jamie Kah, Shooting For Gold dropped back to 1100m in last Saturday’s The Heath at Caulfield and swiftly saw off a crack field of sprinters with an impressive turn of foot under Damian Lane.
Hoysted had travelled down to Melbourne last Thursday to oversee Shooting For Gold’s final preparations ahead of the Group 3 contest, and after surviving an optimistic protest lodged by the connections of the runner-up Generation, he was able to enjoy a victory which saw the five-year-old chestnut take his earnings past the $500,000 mark.
“I thought he was very good last Saturday,” said Hoysted.
“He’d been working really nicely so we were fairly confident that he’d run well, but realistically I thought he was probably more of a place chance so to get the win was a nice surprise. He’d been running without much luck in Queensland during the winter, so it was nice to get the right run in transit this time and even though there was a bit of interference in the straight, I was very confident the result would stand.
“He’ll now head to the [Group 2] Bobby Lewis [Quality] on Saturday week, that will be his last run this prep so hopefully he can end his campaign on a high.”
On the same day (10 September) at Flemington, stablemate Scallopini is set to line up in The Sofitel, a Listed race over 1400m.
Having come within a neck of winning the Group 3 Bletchingly Stakes at Caulfield under champion jockey Damien Oliver, Scallopini stepped up to Group 2 company in the P.B. Lawrence Stakes and whilst he could only manage fifth, finishing less than three lengths behind the reigning Group 1 Doncaster Mile winner Mr Brightside was certainly no disgrace.
“Scallopini has been going super,” said Hoysted.
“In all likelihood The Sofitel will also be his last run this prep, but we probably won’t make a firm decision until after the race. Whatever happens, we’re obviously very proud of the way our three horses have performed during their time in Melbourne.”
As for Uncommon James, the team will let the dust settle before mapping out any provisional plans for the gelding; but whether he resumes in Queensland or returns to Melbourne next year, Hoysted remains confident his best days are still ahead of him.
“We’ve had a very high opinion of Uncommon James from the very start, but it was still a relief to see him justify our optimism and faith in him with that win in the Regal Roller,” said the 30-year-old, whose wife Caitlin bred the son of Cable Bay.
“He’s always been a very fast and competitive horse and we knew he was above average, so I wouldn’t say I was necessarily surprised by the manner of the win but there’s always that query of whether or not the horse would handle the Melbourne way of going. It was also the first time he’d met that quality of opposition, so there were one or two doubts in the back of my mind but it was very pleasing to see him put in a performance like that.
“As good as he was that day, I’m confident he’ll keep improving so even though he’s already got a good record, hopefully the best is yet to come.”