Cambridge wins but credit also to Pukekohe trainer

Danielle Johnson knew her mother, Annabelle, would get a buzz from the debut win of Cambridge-trained Hollywood Lad in the Radio Hauraki 91FM 1300 at Tauranga today.

Though Hollywood Lad is trained by Roger James, Johnson had watched the Postponed three-year-old grow up under the care of her mother, who trains at Pukekohe. And it was Annabelle Johnson who took Hollywood Lad through to his trial at Cambridge on December 10 when he finished second over 950 metres.

Hollywood Lad officially transferred into the James stable five days after that trial and the Cambridge trainer was quick to acknowledge the lead-up work done on the promising galloper. “He had a good background before I got him,” said James.

Owners Bruce Dell and Mike Thompson have raced many horses together and it was always intended that Hollywood Lad headed to the James stable. But Danielle Johnson was glad she was able to keep the mount on raceday.

“Mum really only trains her own horses and she’s prepared a lot for the owners (of Hollywood Lad),” she said. “This horse trialled up well and Mum would have got a thrill out of seeing him win today. He did it well, too.”

James was surprised by the manner in which Hollywood Lad took the first event today, winning the 1300-metre event by a long head from Custer.

“It was a good effort because he was three back on the fence and had to angle out so he was asked some serious questions and he answered them all,” said James.

Indeed Hollywood Lad hid his lack of experience by the way he switched across heels inside the last 200 metres and balanced up to win.

There was some confidence in the camp as an extra $1000 had been put up by the connections of Hollywood Lad to take the stake to $8000. The rewarding win has ensured he is qualified for the Asian market.

James started the day on a high note with Hollywood Lad, but luck totally deserted him in the last two races.

The first blow was the late scratching of Mitcham, the favourite for the final event who was sore after getting off the float at the races. James not only owns Mitcham outright but he put up an extra $1000 to also boost the stake in the event to $8000.

“I thought Zvonareva was the only one to beat and when she was scratched this morning I was confident Mitcham could win,” said James.

The disappointment with Mitcham was overshadowed by a more severe blow when the promising Divine Star broke down after finishing fourth in the second-last event, the Ultimate Motor Group 1600.

“He went just after the finish and his fetlock joint was touching the ground when he walked,” said rider Matt Cameron. “It doesn’t look good but the vet strapped him up and he was able to walk slowly back. He’ll be very sore tomorrow.”

Divine Star, a son of Gallant Guru, has a win and two placings from five starts.