Trainer Matt Cumani has opted for the longer of two options with staying mare Etah James, who will take her place in the Pakenham Cup.
Besides Saturday’s Listed race over 2500m, Cumani also has the mare nominated in the 2000m Werribee Cup on Sunday.
After finishing sixth over 2800m at Flemington on Melbourne Cup day, Etah James was a last start fourth in the Sandown Cup (3200m) on November 16.
“I was half looking at Werribee just because she can occasionally nick a 2000-metre race by being out in front and the worst-case scenario was it would be a lead into her next target,” Cumani said.
“But the 2500 metres is better for her and the Pakenham Cup doesn’t look as strong as it potentially could be, so we thought we’d give her a go in that.
“She seems to have finally come back to form but it’s taken her most of the year to find it again”
After finishing well back in the corresponding 2800m race at Flemington in 2018, Etah James was returned to her owners in New Zealand.
Cumani thought she was headed to stud but Etah James was put back into work and after a glimpse of form returned to Australia.
At her first run back in Cumani’s care, Etah James finished more than 19 lengths from Melbourne Cup winner Vow And Declare in the Tatt’s Cup (3000m) at Eagle Farm in June.
“I thought it was going to be a bit of a disaster when she ran up in Queensland but slowly she’s come back,” Cumani said.
“She’s been going really well at home and she looks great.”
Etah James has a long preparation ahead, with the Adelaide Cup (3200m) at Morphettville in March a long-range goal.
Along the way, Cumani hopes to pick up the Bagot Handicap (2800m) at Flemington on New Year’s Day.
With that in mind, Cumani says he needs to be careful with Etah James’s placement.
“There’s a race at Flemington on December 21 but that might be a bit close to the Bagot,” he said.
“As we want to stretch her out to the Adelaide Cup that might be putting too much into one race too early.”