By Brad Gray
When James Cummings first walked through the gates of Crown Lodge to take on the role of Godolphin’s Australian head trainer, which was some eight months ago now, he already had Kementari pegged as a potential star.
“Kementari was one of those horses you could see, even though he wasn’t the highest prize money earning two-year-old, was in Godolphin’s top crop. He was without a doubt the most exciting,” recalled Cummings.
“You could probably tell from the first three races that I ran him in that he was that horse for me. I ran him in the Run To The Rose and he ran well without winning and two starts later he narrowly missed in a Caulfield Guineas when shooting to the front a little too soon.
“He is a beautifully natured colt who likes to take in his surroundings. He probably thinks he is a bit of a master of his own domain.
"He has got a lot of speed about him but uses it when he wants to use it, which I like in a horse.”
Cummings, a keen student of racing history admitted that the outstanding record of Doncaster winners to come via the George Ryder Stakes, with 13 of the past 23 following that path, did play a role in Kementari tackling Winx but it was more so the opportunity to see where he’d measure up against the world‘s best.
“I had the option not to run against Winx and the risk of running against Winx was that you can break a horse. Don’t forget 12 months ago some really super horses were left in her wake,” said Cummings.
“We are building the reputation and profile of a horse that’s going to one day joining the Darley roster but we just had so much faith in Kementari’s ability that we were happy to run him.
“If my recent travels to Dubai and back taught me anything it’s that the world was watching and people were extremely impressed with the way the colt ran against her.”
Kementari's third in the George Ryder Stakes
Kementari, who had won three on the bounce prior to his third in the George Ryder, impressed Cummings in his main piece of work earlier in the week ahead of Saturday’s $3m The Star Doncaster Mile (1600m). However, Cummings did warn what you’ve seen from the son of Lonhro in his last two starts was him at his top.
“He is really good. He is in a great frame, arriving here fifth up. He worked really, really strongly when I saw him Tuesday morning,” revealed Cummings.
“I’d be cautious saying we’ve got him better because he was so good on Guineas day but I do feel really confident in the horse to run well on his grand final. We feel like we’re going to see a big performance from him.
“He is such a sleek athlete and keeps himself quite fit naturally. We didn’t need to do that much with him for him to come out first up and blow them away.”
Cummings has every right to be bullish about the chances of Kementari ahead of Day 1 of The Championships but he’s certainly wary of his rivals. In particular, fellow three-year-old D’argento.
“I was hoping D’argento was going to go to the Derby. That is an interesting play there seeing the horse switch back to the Doncaster,” said Cummings.
“He chased us home in the Randwick Guineas and was no match for Kementari’s turn of foot but a month later and after his own confidence-boosting win in the Rosehill Guineas, I would have much preferred to see that horse go to a mile and a half.
“The sort of things I was hearing about D’argento a month or two ago were certainly high praise. He is clearly a horse to fear in a handicap and if you’re going to throw up a horse that will be running on strongly from out of the pack, D’argento has got to be one of those.
"Outside of that, I’ve got plenty of respect for Pat Webster’s horse (Happy Clapper).
“You can’t choose your opposition though so there is no way around it other than to go out there and take it on with confidence.”
It’s that assured approach that Cummings, who recently enjoyed similar success with three-year-old Hallowed Crown before joining Godolphin, says is necessary when training Group One colts.
“I always train them carefully but very confidently. You just have to press on full throttle with horses like that,” said Cummings.
Astoria and Encryption will represent Godolphin in the $2m Harrolds Australian Derby (2400m) and $1m Inglis Sires’ (1400m) respectively but Cummings singled out the “flying” Demerara in the $200,000 The Man Shake PJ Bell Stakes (1200m) as a horse from the stable that punters can follow.