“Jimmy” Self Assured and “Jimmy” Stephens, best mates for years, are to be together again.But in a new “Home James”

Another big one, the Auckland Cup, is in the bag

Self Assured,one of the most accomplished pacers of the modern era, was retired after his Auckland Cup second and owner,Jean Feiss, with typical regard for her horse’s welfare,had made plans for a comfortable and active retirement, probably in Canterbury, not far from James. However when James became interested in a position at  luxurious Lincoln Farms in Pukekohe where he has spent much of the last six months on a racing campaign,arrangements were made for his best equine mate to stay there too. Being together was always the way Jean wanted to see it

“I was up there for quite a while during the racing season and I was quite impressed with the setup and prospects so decided on a change. Now Jimmy is retired I was looking for something new ” James said

Unlike some in the stable assistant game,James is,well,very stable

Following the example of an older sister who has been with the  Luke McCarthy for several years, James got started in the game when he walked into the Graham Court stables nearby as a youngster and asked for a job.He was there several years. 

“Then I came here about six years ago. I had a short spell over at Luke’s stable in Sydney but came back to All Stars. Now is a good opportunity to do something different” James said.

Apart from his ability with star horses,James is a compassionate person, raising $2500 for the less fortunate when he ran his first half-marathon a few years ago.

Self Assured, a low key superstar with a superb temperament for such an ambitious competitor on the track, appealed to James right from the start.

“I don’t know exactly what it was. It was just his low key attitude and he did everything right without a fuss. We didn’t know how good he was going to be then but he was easy to get along with and just had something about him that I thought made him a little special”

To be fair nobody at that stage knew quite how good he was and you might have got 100/1 around the barn at one stage that he would be only the third horse (Lazarus,Smolda) to win over $2m for the stable, a list which underlines how special he really was.He was the only one of the three who did not race as a two year old and win major stakes at that age as well.

Jean Feiss-appreciated James’s affinity for Self Assured

By the time he got to the races at three after a few setbacks his home reputation was much higher but he settled for a couple of low key but well-backed handicap wins first and second up, running smart times in both, before heading off to Queensland.


This was the season of Ultimate Sniper as the three year old star, and later Inter Dominion winner,in years when second cut but classy performers in an elite All Stars squad headed to Brisbane, so he still had some way to go to prove himself.

After he twice beat Australian superstar Lochinvar Art on that campaign,surprising even Mark in the process, he came home an established star in his own right and to weather 74 raceday starts and finish in the first three in 63 of them racing almost continuously in top company is an extraordinary achievement 

The no- nonsense quiet achiever may have told against his comparative lack of “stardom” among elite pacers of his era. He was probably more admired than loved in public when in reality he is  one of the most lovable horses ever to go through the mighty Rolleston stable.

James cannot quite distinguish between the Race By Grins and the fabulous mini- Lord Module comeback performance in last year’s NZ Free for All ,which he predicted,as his two biggest thrills.

“There were a lot of others of course like the New Zealand Cup,but they are two that stood out.It was the first Grins race and that added to it”

Was there any disappointment that his favourite horse was retired after running second in the Auckland Cup?

“No it wasn’t a surprise.He has always had problems with allergies through the spring and that was another thing. At least he went out on a high note”

James leaves All Stars in the same esteem. He may never strap another one as good as Jimmy.But now he can still give him a pat and a carrot  to remind them of a memorable association.For Jimmy the human version that is a huge bonus. And we know his low key equine mate will be just as happy.

Main pic; James bowls Jimmy over an easy 3200m in his spring leadup. 


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