Trainer Graham James says he’s playing the long game with Ballarat record holder Silver Lake ahead of the boom kennel newcomer’s return to racing in Monday afternoon’s Group 2 Bottle-O Ballarat Cup heats.
Silver Lake sensationally broke Ballarat’s 450m record in February at just his sixth start when clocking 24.69s in a heat of the Listed Western Districts Derby.
James then took over the training duties from good friend Lynette Gough, who owns and bred the son of Fernando Bale and Hot Charmola, prior to the Group 3 Launching Pad but after running second in his heat Silver Lake was scratched from the semi-finals.
“Unfortunately it didn’t go to plan but making that call was the best thing I’ve ever done and I don’t have any regrets at all,” said James, who’s based at Woodleigh.
“When I spoke with the owners we talked about not risking the next 18 months for the sake of one or two runs now.
“In all honesty, I probably didn’t prepare him right for the Launching Pad.
“He was flying around The Meadows – there’s no doubt about that – but what this dog really needs is continuity in his racing, which he hasn’t had yet.
“He needs to string races together to help him settle down because he gets very excited and carries on and loses a bit before he races.
“I trained his mother and reared the whole litter so I thought I knew him pretty well. Hindsight is a great thing but another race would have taken the edge off him. You live and learn.
“He just wasn’t right for the (Launching Pad) semis but he’s bounced back now and has been trialling super.”
Unbeaten in two appearances at Ballarat and winner of five from eight overall, Silver Lake will exit box eight for the first time in the third of six Ballarat Cup heats, race 7 at 4.47pm.
“Whatever he does on Monday he’ll improve on and win, lose or draw he’ll have a Group 2 heat run under his belt,” James said.
“Racing against open class dogs is a big step but I think it’s the best thing for him. Racing against these better dogs will make him a better dog.
“We’re looking to the future and in 12 months’ time we want to be where Shima Shine is now.
“Has he got the raw ability? Yes, he can run you anything. But he hasn’t got the race experience or maturity. Even though he’s two and a quarter he’s still puppyish and excitable.
“He doesn’t seem to mind Ballarat! He obviously has the (450m) record and leading up to that he ran around 21.50s over 390m, which is ridiculous.
“He hasn’t drawn eight before but he goes straight and doesn’t crash over.
“He’s not the best box dog going around but once he hits the ground he can move. I’d expect him to be up there somewhere on the turn and he’s probably going to need some luck but his run-home will be pretty good.
“Fitness and run-home are the least of my worries. He wouldn’t be there if he wasn’t ready to go!”
WATCH: Silver Lake (4) runs a track record 24.686sec at Ballarat in just the sixth start of his career.
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