Roger James, like many New Zealand trainers, has often played a big part in the Brisbane Winter Carnival.
He’s even claimed Group 1 glory during the carnival back in 2000 when Giovanna won the Queensland Oaks.
In 2011 though his numbers are down, he has just 25 horses in work back home meaning the pool of talent to send overseas just doesn’t exist.
For that reason Firebolt will be left shouldering all the burden for James, a tough ask for a horse that himself didn’t look any hope of making the trip until his last start.
He won a race in Te Rapa at the end of April, his first result in a long time but enough to grab a spot in the Group 3 Chairman’s Handicap this Saturday at Doomben.
“I’ve only got about 25 in work and I normally bring a few more over each winter,” James said.
“But it’s not the first time as there was a year or two when I didn’t send any horses over.”
His big chance of the carnival was always going to be the New Zealand Stakes winner The Party Stand but a tendon injury has ruled out the four-year-old for at least 12 months.
Brisbane could continue the change in fortunes for Firebolt after last year he won two of his four races in Queensland before earning an Epsom Handicap campaign down in Sydney.
En route to that race he picked up the Group 2 Shannon Stakes at Rosehill but ran out of legs in the Epsom Handicap finishing a well beaten 11th to Captain Sonador.
“It was a stunning win in the Shannon,” James said.
“He sat three and four wide the entire trip and still ran good time.
“In the Epsom, he drew wide and had to go forward.
“They ran something like 35 seconds for the first 600 metres and he was still there at the 100 metres.
“He was entitled knock up in the Epsom.”
His Epsom run probably signalled he was in need of a spell but James pushed him forward to Melbourne, a tactic which didn’t pay off.
“He only had two runs in Melbourne and his form was disappointing,” he said.
James may have learned from last year’s mistakes by not locking in any firm plans for Firebolt this year.
Much of it will come down to how he runs this weekend in the Chairman’s Handicap but he is on a shortlist of 18 acceptors for the Group 1 Doomben Cup the following week.
“I haven’t decided on anything yet with him and I’ll wait until after he runs on Saturday,” James said.
If he goes to the Doomben Cup he’ll run into My Kingdom Of Fife, the English wonder horse which has now won three in a row on Aussie soil all at Group level.