Another major mission for partners

The trainer – owner partnership of Roger James and Ron Dixon is on the path to a bid of another major race.

Dixon and his wife, Fran, race Hera, who became the couple’s first juvenile stakeswinner when proving too strong in the Listed Graeme Thomson Jewellers Great Northern Foal Stakes at Ellerslie today.

It was Hera’s second win from five starts and completed a double with the daughter of O’Reilly having broken through for her first win at New Plymouth a fortnight earlier. James is undecided whether to turn out Hera for a spell or keep her going for the Castletown and Ryder Stakes, at Wanganui and Otaki respectively, especially as she handled today’s winter track well.

But the main new season goal for Hera will be the Gr.1 NZ Bloodstock 1000 Guineas at Riccarton in November. “She’s got a great attitude and should improve further with time,” said the Cambridge trainer.

Dixon, a past President of the Wellington Racing Club, has been racing horses from the James stable since the late 1980s when he enjoyed success with High Interest, whose highlight in eight wins under James’ preparation was a win in the 1989 Gr.2 Japan – NZ International Trophy at Tauranga.

The following year Dixon asked James to buy a horse for him and the result was Tethys, who went on to win eight races including the 1993 Gr.1 Avondale Cup, and was third in both the Auckland and Waikato Cups behind Miltak.

“The very first commission I got to buy a horse was from Ron and that was the year I bought Tethys,” recalled James. “I had a budget of $20,000 and spent $10,000 and come out with an Avondale Cup winner.

“Ever since those days Ron has usually had a horse or two in the stables. He has been one of my most loyal clients and I get a big thrill out of winning races for him.”

Tethys was just the start of an amazing run for James and Dixon as other Group One winners and performers for the partnership have included Cronus, Hades, Skoozi and Kaatoon.

Cronus was a very special horse for the Dixons, making his mark on both sides of the Tasman. His 11 wins included the 1997 West End Draught Stakes – Gr.1 Adelaide Cup double at Morphettville plus the 2001 Gr.2 Awapuni Gold Cup.

In 1999 Cronus was on a roll, winning the Gr.2 Hawke’s Bay Cup and Gr.3 BTC Chairmans Handicap and Gr.2 Prime Minister’s Cup in Brisbane. And that was only part of an amazing period for the James – Dixon combo.

Cronus got the group to Hong Kong for the 1999 Hong Kong Vase, in which he finished sixth, and he was placed in two Moonee Valley Cups. And on Boxing Day 1999 the Dixons celebrated another Group One success, in this country’s biggest three-year-old event, the NZ Derby, with the James-trained Hades.

Hades had preceded his Derby win with a second in the Avondale Guineas and later went on to run third in the Gr.1 Australian Guineas in Melbourne before being sold to race in Hong Kong, where his performances included seconds in two Hong Kong Gold Cups and a third in the Hong Kong Derby.

Though Skoozi and Kaatoon didn’t win a Group One race for James and Dixon, both horses were very competitive in top company.

Skoozi won the Listed Anniversary Handicap at Trentham and his placings before being sold included seconds in the Gr.1 Thorndon Mile, the Waikato Guineas and Queensland’s Rough Habit Plate and a third in the Gr.1 Queensland Derby.

Kaatoon included the Gr.2 Sir Tristram Classic and Gr.3 Lowland Stakes among her four wins and she was runner-up in both the Gr.2 Royal Stakes and Gr.2 Desert Gold Stakes.

Hera has a hard act to follow Dixon’s Group One performers, but she is on the right track and should ensure an interesting new season for the James – Dixon combo.

Also shaping as a very exciting prospect for the pair is Royal Tiger, who made it two wins from as many start when winning the Brand Protocole 1200 in the hands of Opie Bosson, who was impressed by his debut win at Pukekohe on May 1.

Royal Tiger, a Thorn Park three-year-old by Thorn Park who was also bred by Dixon, preceded his raceday wins with two trials victories, the first as a two-year-old in January last year and the other last March.

James plans to take his time with the promising galloper. “I don’t think I’ll send him around again on this sort of track,” he said. “He’s got a lot of raw ability and is worth looking after.”