Queensland trip on the line

Romantic Maid (Michael McNab) racing away to a stylish win on debut at Avondale.

Romantic Maid (Michael McNab) racing away to a stylish win on debut at Avondale.

Romantic Maid will attempt to turn the tables on stablemate The Hassler and defeat some promising young stayers in the Gr. 2 Championship Stakes at Ellerslie on Saturday to seal her place on a flight to Queensland.

The Cambridge stablemates met for the first time at Pukekohe earlier this month and The Hassler came up trumps, scoring by a short neck in his first start since the NZ Derby, while the previously unbeaten Romantic Maid finished fourth.

It was a big effort from The Hassler, who had been freshened for the 1600 metres after finishing an unlucky ninth when facing the 2400 of the Derby, but there was also plenty of merit in Romantic Maid’s Pukekohe effort and trainer Roger James says he would not be surprised to see her come out on top this weekend.

“She didn’t have the best of runs and her last 50 metres was super,” said James. “I think the trip on Saturday will suit her and her work has been great.

“She is a very good filly and I’d like to get her to Brisbane for the Doomben Roses and the Queensland Oaks. “

The desire to take Romantic Maid to Brisbane is even stronger than usual as the filly is owned by expatriate New Zealander Judi Wanless, a resident in Queensland who also bred the daughter of High Chaparral.

James knows what is needed to win features in Queensland. He already has two Doomben Roses to his credit (Melora in 1998 and Gaze eight years later) and he saddled up Giovana to win the 2000 Queensland Oaks for Cambridge owner-breeder Carol Marshall.

Romantic Maid will face her first staying test on Saturday and it comes in just her fourth start. She was an easy winner on debut over 1400 metres at Avondale two months ago then was even more impressive when stepping up to 1600 a month later at Te Rapa.

While an Australian trip is in store for Romantic Maid, James is, at this stage, solely concentrating on the Championship Stakes with The Hassler.

“He’s had a bit of a season and I just want to see how he does on Saturday before deciding what to do with him,” said James.

The Hassler cleared maiden ranks when stepped up to 2100 metres for the first time at Tauranga on January 2 and he had to cope with a heavy track that day. Two starts later he recorded the second of his three wins, again at 2100, when beating the very promising Humidor at Te Rapa.

That Te Rapa win persuaded James to press on for the Derby and in his lead up he produced an encouraging fifth to subsequent Derby winner Rangipo in the Gr. 2 Avondale Guineas.