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NZ 2YO TROTTING STAKES: Won by Jumanji Franco


Steve McRae warned she was good. And he was right, we just hadn't seen the full extent of Jumanji Franco's talent until she won the $30,000 NRM NZ 2YO Trotting Stakes at Addington last Friday night.

Despite working hard from a wide marble to eventually hit the front, Jumanji Franco had plenty in reserve when the challengers came calling at the end, needing little more than a chirp up from driver Craig Thornley to score by a length and a half. It was the third outing and first victory for the daughter of CR Commando, and afterwards Thornley paid tribute to McRae for getting her to peak at the most important stage of the season. "Steve's timed her preparation to perfection - just like he did with Jacanti Franco," Thornley said, referring to this time last year when Jumanji Franco's year older half-sister took out the NRM Sires' Stakes 2yo Trotters Championship at start number two.

That event is this Saturday, and now the pair's dam Jaguar Franco has a very real chance of a noteworthy back-to-back double. "Her blood wasn't right during the week, so if anything she should improve," Thornley claimed. "She's got a lovely way of going, this filly. And it's better when they eyeball her, because she concentrates then; otherwise she's looking all round the place."

McRae hasn't trained many trotters in his time, and after the "freakish ability" Jacanti Franco showed he thought he'd never get another one as good. Seems he was wrong about that, but he's not complaining. "Jumanji's a completely different type to Jacanti," McRae said, meaning not only their builds. "Jacanti had a few tricks, and didn't like the grit in her face for a start. But Jumanji's never galloped at home in her life. The best thing about Jumanji is probably her gait. She's very light on her feet, and everything's very effortless to her. You'd hardly get excited about her in training, because she just flops about on a loose rein - but she's a real professional," he said.

The dogs were barking about Jumanji Franco at a very early stage though, and the filly was sold for a six-figure sum to Victorian enthusiast Peter Chambers before she'd even qualified. "That's how much we thought of her," McRae said. "I've never met the guy actually. He's a mate of Ted Demmler's, and that's where Jumanji will be heading after the Jewels. It'll be a shame to loose her, but that's the nature of our business I suppose; it's happened before, and it'll happen again." McRae says that with the Jewels these days its a big enough season for baby trotters, and given a decent three to four-month spell after Cambridge Jumanji Franco should come back "a really nice horse at three".

As for Jacanti Franco, who's by Continentalman, she's all but recovered from her tendon injury and should be back in work towards the end of June. "Hopefully she'll resume sometime in Spring. We'll see if we can make up for lost time, and win some stakes so we can target the Jewels with her next year," McRae said.

Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 7May08

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