Roger James didn’t hesitate to split the credit for Hoof Hustler’s breakthrough maiden win in the Ssangyong 2100 at Pukekohe today.
While thrilled to see the promising son of Shamoline Warrior clear maiden ranks in his fourth start, the Cambridge trainer was quick to also pay credit to the ride of comeback flat jockey Troy Harris.
“He’s a class rider and he timed the run pretty well,” said James. “He put him to sleep nicely and had his head low and he wasn’t spending a penny. He knows the horse well.”
James has been using the services of Harris in the 29-year-old’s comeback and the combination has been enjoying a good run of success, beginning with a double on Twinkles.
“He’s completely focused at present,” said James. “I see him running the roads each day.
He’s a welcome addition to our riding ranks.”
There is no doubting Harris’ talent.
The son of legendary jockey and current apprentice jockey mentor Noel Harris has 12 Group or Listed wins among the 252 wins to his credit since he began race-riding in the 2003-04 season.
He enjoyed his best second in 2006-07 when kicking home 61 wins and two seasons later hit the half-century, the same season he staged a memorable finish with his father when getting Tell A Tale home by a head over his father’s mount, Il Quello Veloce, in the Gr.1 NZ 2000 Guineas at Riccarton.
However, over the last four seasons he has had a constant battle with his weight, a problem which saw him turn to jumps and highweight riding.
Not surprisingly he kept kicking home winners, but now the father-to-be has decided to make a determined and successful comeback bid on the flat and he is turning heads.
His performance on Hoof Hustler was reminiscent of his father in action, showing an uncanny timing to grab the honours just when it counted, right at the last moment.
He settled Hoof Hustler second-last and, though he had him a shade closer nearing the home turn, he bided his time.
“He gave me a heart attack most of the way up the straight,” said James. “He didn’t look like he was going to get there.”
But Harris didn’t panic and he got to work on Hoof Hustler, picking up ground on the leading group and striking within the final 50 metres to score by a long neck from Neddy Nadeem.
Harris had also been aboard Hoof Hustler the previous start when the three-year-old gelding had finished strongly for fourth over 1600 metres behind Mastercard at Te Rapa.
Troy Harris getting Manhattan Flame home with a well-timed run at Pukekohe today.
Stepping up to 2100 metres today was in Hoof Hustler’s favour and James believes his owner-breeders, the Smithies’ family’s Monavale Holdings, have an exciting staying prospect in the making.
“Cups horses come from horses like this and as a five-year-old he could be racing for good money,” said James. “He’s probably not suited by these tracks and is still big and weak.”
Hoof Hustler continued an impressive strike rate for James within the last five days. James also picked up wins with Poker Face (Ruakaka) and Bonny Emilia (Te Awamutu) over the weekend.
“I’ve only got four in my racing team at the moment so they’re doing well,” he said.
The other one is Pythagoras, on whom Harris won at Pukekohe last month and has also picked up two seconds.
As for Harris, he wasn’t about to settle on the one win today. Three races after his success on Hoof Hustle, he guided Manhattan Flame to a strong win in the Campbell Tyson 1200.– Racing Desk