Uncertainty over two-pronged Oaks bid

Jessabeel (Vinnie Colgan) showing her staying potential at Te Teko.

Jessabeel (Vinnie Colgan) showing her staying potential at Te Teko.

Roger James will know within the next few days whether or not he is still in with a live chance of staging a two-pronged attack on the Gr. 1 Wellfield NZ Oaks at Trentham next month.

The Cambridge trainer withdrew Downton Abbey and Sure Enough from the March 19 feature and was happy over his prospects with his two remaining hopes, the Zabeel fillies Cool Tart and Jessabeel. But a major hiccup occurred in the latter’s preparation during trackwork last Thursday.

A winner of two of her three starts, Jessabeel was preparing for a tilt at last Saturday’s Listed Bob Sharrock Memorial Oaks Prelude at New Plymouth when she ducked out and went over the outside rail and another fence.

“She was working on the outside of the course proper, which she hadn’t done before, and tried to duck off at the crossing but her rider managed to stop her, then she went a bit further and took on the fence and another one,” said James.

“She was extremely sore quickly and there was tremendous swelling. She had round-the-clock treatment for the first 24 hours and in the first 24 – 48 hours her recovery was good, but it’s lingered since then.

“There’s bruising to the muscles in her chest and she’s had constant laser treatment. She appears free in her action when trotted up, but I don’t want to take any risks with her.

“We’ll be scanning her again tomorrow morning and should know more after that. At this stage she’s still not certain to get to the Oaks.”

From the family of Golden Slipper winner Canny Lad, Jessabeel won on debut over 1400 at Matamata last December then had no luck in her next start at Ellerslie before bouncing back with a strong win over 1600 at Te Teko.

James makes no secret of the high regard he has for Jessabeel and believes she has the class and stamina to be very competitive in the Oaks.

While uncertainty hangs over Jessabeel’s Oaks bid, James is pleased with Cool Tart leading up to the Trentham event.

Cool Tart has won twice and showed her talent over ground when scoring in a 2100-metre Rating 65 event at Te Rapa two starts ago.

Meanwhile, James is thrilled with his BMW NZ Derby candidate The Hassler, who produced a massive effort for fifth behind Rangipo in last Saturday’s Gr. 2 Auckland Eye Avondale Guineas.

“I thought it was a huge effort,” said James. “He took off at the 900 and his time between the 800 and 600 was the quickest of any horse. He was the widest turning for home and he still finished it off.

“He bounced through it surprising well, considering he had two runs in a week.”

The Hassler had put his hand up for the Derby when winning over 2100 at Te Rapa last Saturday week.