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Mathew James stretches out stylishly in front at Pukekohe today.

Late developer Mathew James flexes his muscles in Pukekohe workout

Mathew James lived up to his surprise package billing yet again when, fresh-up and looking as big as a bull, he led all the way to win a left-handed workout at Pukekohe today.

The effort, his first serious test since a stone bruise stopped him in his tracks in November, was good enough for trainer Ray Green to declare him a starter at Cambridge next Friday.

And judging by the way the horse has continued to improve from the once despised stable slowcoach, you wouldn’t rule out his chance of repeating his debut win on the course.

“He’s come up pretty quickly on a flimsy preparation - he’s had only two or three fast runs - but we’ve also been galloping him,’’ says Green.

Mathew James was still carrying plenty of condition today but it didn’t stop him spearing out of the gate to easily claim the early lead for Zachary Butcher.

And while challenged down the home straight inside and out by the John and Josh Dickie-trained Madame Connoistre and Lagertha, he held on strongly to win by a head in 2:38.7 for the 2050 metres.

The time represented a mile rate of 2:04.6 with a final 800 metres in 59 and 400 in 27.9.

“I didn’t even ask him to go,’’ says Butcher who earlier in the horse’s career couldn’t make him go faster under duress but claims he was the only one who stuck up for the horse.

“He has great gate speed and he’s a good pacer,’’ says Green of the Bettor’s Delight three-year-old who scored a nose win at Cambridge in his only start on November 9.

Mathew James suffered a stone bruise soon after that win and was out for three weeks before it cleaned up.

“He obviously doesn’t need much to get fit and seems to go best when he’s fresh.’’

Recco Lover trials well

Earlier, another last-start winner Recco Lover showed he was also coming to hand quickly after a short break when he finished only three lengths from two of the best pacers in the country, Thefixer and Chase Auckland, in the fast class 2500 metre heat.

Showing great gate speed, Recco Lover sped to the early lead before relenting to Thefixer when Mark Purdon moved round the field.

He was still going strongly in the trail when Chase Auckland moved up parked down the back straight but blew out in the run home, according to Butcher.

“He wouldn’t have beaten them but he would have been much closer. I ran home in 27.5 which wasn’t bad for his first run back.’’

Thefixer, who claimed a head win over Chase Auckland, was clocked to run the trip in 3:15.7, a mile rate of 2:08.9. Their closing sectionals were 58.1 and 26.9.

Recco Lover, who scored an all-the-way upset win in 2:40.2 at Auckland in November, is on target to resume at Alexandra Park on January 18.

Turning for home at Pukekohe today and Recco Lover trails Thefixer with Chase Auckland on his outer.Turning for home at Pukekohe today and Recco Lover trails Thefixer with Chase Auckland on his outer.

Our runners this week

Saturday night at Albion Park

Argyle.

Our runners this week: How our trainer rates them

Ray Green

Ray’s comments

Friday night at Auckland

Race 2: Frisco Bay
6.40pm

“He obviously needed the run last week. He pulled his way round the field and sat outside the leader but he couldn’t cop a run like that first-up and got tired. The ability is there, whether he’s fit enough or not we’ll find out. But I expect him to go well, the three draw is much better than last week.”

Race 2: Lenny Lincoln
6.40pm

“He’ll probably need a race but he’s capable of running a slot. He’s unlucky not to have won a race, all three of his seconds were good. He’s got a bit better with each of his trials this time in and he got home well last Saturday, after coming widest on the turn.”

Race 3: Obadiah Dragon
7.10pm

“The way the race was run at Cambridge last week, his effort wasn’t bad at all. Moni (Monika Ranger) said he felt strong and, if he’d been a few slots closer, he would have been right in it. He’ll be improved for the run.”

Race 3: Leo Lincoln
7.10pm

“He’s very consistent - he’s only missed a couple of cheques. But he’s another just coming back and should improve with the run.”

Whales Harness