A session with an equine chiropractor this week could be a step closer to realising an Auckland Cup dream with Australian Group Three winner Etah James.
Etah James won six of her 15 starts and more than $260,000 in prizemoney for Ballarat trainer Matt Cumani and is now back in New Zealand with her original trainer, Mark Lupton, the Matamata horseman who co-bred and part-owns the daughter of Raise The Flag.
The six-year-old holds a nomination for the Gr.1 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup (3200m) at Ellerslie on March 9, but Lupton is taking it one step at a time with the talented stayer.
“We hope to get to the Auckland Cup with her, but it’s a longshot,” Lupton said.
“There are still other good staying races like the Rotorua Cup and the Hawke’s Bay Cup if she doesn’t get there.
“She’s a good stayer, but things didn’t work out for her in the spring. She lost her form so we decided to bring her home. If she comes up we’ll try her then she can go to stud next season.
“I’ll just tick her over and see if she still wants to race.”
Etah James has shown in her work at Matamata that she is still keen to compete.
“She’s been working well, but she’s got a few shoulder and neck issues so we’ve got the chiropractor coming to look at her this week,” Lupton said.
“Hopefully he can sort it out. I’m hopeful of getting her to a trial here at Matamata in a couple of weeks.”
Lupton and his wife, Cath, bred and race Etah James with long-time friends, Gary Howes (a London lawyer) and Sydney businessman Terry Reid.
The same group enjoyed eight wins with dual Group Three winner Tickle, a sister to Etah James’ dam, Etah. Tickle’s wins included the Gr.3 Labour Day Cup (2020m) in Brisbane, but she broke down two starts later in the 2005 Gr.1 Doomben Cup (2200m) and could not be saved.
Lupton educated and trialled Etah James before sending her to Cumani as a four-year-old.
She made her Australian debut with a sixth at Cranbourne in April 2017 then went on to win five of her first seven starts, emerging as an up-and-coming stayer with four of those wins being from 2000m to 2420m (at Caulfield).
She then finished a sound second to Parthesia (also by Raise The Flag) in the Listed Bagot Handicap (2800m) at Flemington on New Year’s Day last year and two starts later she was a convincing winner of the Gr.3 Lord Reims Stakes (2600m) at Morphettville.
“She led all the way in the Lord Reims and won it so well,” Lupton said. “We had high hopes for her this spring, but everything went wrong.”
Her best placings in her last five starts for Cumani were a couple of sevenths and she struck an unsuitable heavy track when eighth in the St Leger (2600m) at Randwick last October before her farewell performance when second-last at Flemington on Melbourne Cup day.
While Etah James has returned home, Lupton and his partners have his He’s Remarkable half-brother Redeemer with Cumani.
“I gave him one trial and he was just beaten then I sent him over to Matt,” Lupton said.
“He’s only had one start over there, but he shows a lot of promise.” - NZ Racing Desk