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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: How our trainer rates them

Ray Green

Ray’s comments

Friday night at Auckland

Race 1: Man Of Action

“He should get out well at the start and won’t have to do too much work from the inside alley. While I don’t think he could win he’s a big, lazy type who has yet to be smacked on the bum.’’

Race 1: Perfect Stride

“He missed four days’ work after standing on the nail and it could have left him a little bit short for Friday. But he’s still classy enough to win it, especially from the perfect draw.”

Race 1: Tommy Lincoln

“I only really entered him to make sure the race got off the ground but he’s going well enough to be there. He isn’t really a genuine two-year-old but he won’t disgrace himself.’’

Race 1: Double Or Nothing

“He’ll make Perfect Stride earn it. I drove him in work on Tuesday and the way he felt he’s gone on from where he was previously. He keeps improving and will be a serious chance.’’

Race 1: Sir Tiger

“He’s had to rough it both times and has another wide draw on Friday night. He’s honest and will go round OK but it’s hard to see him footing it with some of the others from out there.’’

Race 1: Copy That

“Ability wise he’s as good as Perfect Stride and Double Or Nothing but he hasn’t quite got their game yet. He’ll go back at the start but if he could slot in somewhere and things went his way he could get some of it.’’

Race 4: Beaudiene Blinkz

“She’s extremely honest but the other filly should have the wood on her. She does have the pedigree to lift her game on the day however and has the speed to use her good draw.’’

Race 4: Hilary Barry

“She’s a lovely driving filly who you can put anywhere in a race. If she can get a good trip behind the one horse (Emmber) she can be right in it but it’s hard to line up all these unknown quantities.’’

Race 5: Recco Lover

“Even though he trained well on Tuesday morning I think he’ll be short of a run because he had a big break with that first sale pending. He trialled nicely recently but blew out halfway down the straight.’’

Race 5: Zealand Star

“I wouldn’t normally back him up three weeks in a row but he’s come out of last week’s race very well. If he’d been one spot closer at Cambridge he’d have won for fun. He needs to get a suck into it late.’’

Race Images - Harness