Goulburn trainer John Bateman knows Common Purpose is his best horse heading into Sunday’s $150,000 Country Championships Qualifier (1400m) at Moruya but two stablemates won’t make it easy for him.
The I Am Invincible six-year-old comes into the feature race off a very good second in higher grade to Zeppelin at Canterbury over 1550m. While he has the talent, form and inside gate to take advantage of, there’s one big query – a possible bog track.
“He ran second last start and beat a horse home called Budderoo Knight and it came out and won its next start (over 1400m) and ran sensational time and carried about 5kg more than it did when we beat it,” Bateman said.
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Greenspan (left) showed his Country Championships credentials with a TAB Highway win at Randwick on February 1. Picture: AAPSource:AAP
“I would think he could use that gate. That was part of his battle before. He would be tardy away then I put him in a 1500m and he jumped and put himself there so hopefully he can do it again because he seems to be in a better frame of mind now.
“He’s drawn the best but if the track is really wet I’d prefer the other two. He’s fine on a Soft track.”
His two stablemates are Greenspan and Show Me The Honey.
Bateman has the most trust in Greenspan. He said at Randwick on February 1 shortly after he won a Highway race with Samantha Clenton on board and she’s following him down to the NSW south coast from her Newcastle base.
The Highway win confirmed Greenspan’s Country Championships aspirations.
MATT JONES’S TOP PICKS
BEST BEST: BOMBDIGGITY (Race 6, No.1)
Can lead all the way and if he finds the same form that took him to a close second in a Highway a few starts ago.
NEXT BEST: AL MAH HAHA (Race 7, No.7)
Is going better than last year when he won this race and he’s done nothing to suggest he won’t go close again. He just needs to handle a wet track
VALUE BET: O’ SO TEMPTING (Race 1, No.4)
Improved greatly from the use of the tongue-tie last start and is at peak fitness for the opening event at a track he’s won at in the past.
LATEST BETTING: TAB FIXED ODDS
Race 5: 3, 12
Race 6: 1, 3, 4, 11
Race 7: 1, 3, 6, 7, 8
Race 8: 2, 5
TRAINER(S) TO WATCH
ROBERT and LUKE PRICE send a good team down the coast today including Beaurama, Tic Tock Man and Power Lift.
JOCKEY TO WATCH
It’s hard to go past TOMMY BERRY. The star hoop rides Irish Songs in the Country Championships Qualifier along with Cavalier Charles, Power Lift, Aunty and Zardoro.
SCROLL DOWN FOR MATT’S EXTENDED PREVIEW & TIPS
Tommy Berry has some good rides at Moruya, including Irish Songs in the Country Championships Qualifier. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
SHAYNE O’CASS’S TOP PICKS
BEST BET: HEALING HANDS (Race 7, No.4)
Greg Ryan obviously has a big opinion of this Gayna Williams trained son of I Am Invincible having ridden him in every race and trial. Might see him on April 4 in the CC Final
NEXT BEST: NOW OR NEVER (Race 1, No.9)
Finished two-lengths fourth on debut in the 2017 Gimcrack. Still a maiden but sent out west to get some wins on the board.
VALUE: ARKAM ASYLUM (Race 2, No.4)
Getting closer than ever to his first win and has the draw to do it here.
Race 5: 10,11,12,13
Race 6: 3,4,7
Race 7: 4
Race 8: 1,2
JOCKEY TO FOLLOW
GREG RYAN has a great book, naturally, but the big one is Healing Hands, who is a genuine Championship Final contender.
“He’s the most genuine of the three,” Bateman said. “Samantha rode him pretty last start and he went well for her so we asked her manager if she’d be keen to come and ride him and she said would.
“She’s one of the better apprentices going around. She’s had a feel of the horse and she’ll know where to be. About midfield in a race where there will be more pace on than they think.”
Show Me The Honey isn’t out of it even though he was rated the outsider of the field on Friday as a $41 chance.
“His first-up run was terrific and since then he’s had no luck in his races at all,” Bateman said. “When Kerrin (McEvoy) got off him last start he said ‘don’t be afraid to bring him to another Highway. He just needs to get a bit of luck in running’.
“He handles the wet and if he puts in, the other two won’t want to be looking over their shoulder at the last furlong.”
So who’s the threat in the race?
“I think Assault’n’bathory will be hard to beat. He seems to run his best races when he’s drawn out and he can take his time to get across and take up the running,” Bateman said. “I don’t think he’ll have it all his own way and there will be pressure on.”
Trainer John bateman has a strong hand in the Country Championships Qualifier at Moruya on Sunday. Picture: AAPSource:AAP
Bateman qualified Lofty’s Menu for the 2016 Country Championships Final, where he ran fifth to Clearly Innocent. Asked if he was nervous about Sunday’s race, Bateman replied: “Been there, done that before”.
Meantime, trainer Tash Burleigh is starting all over again with Al Mah Haha but she’s thankful she has the opportunity to do so.
The Goulburn trainer qualified the now five-year-old for the $500,000 Country Championships Final (1400m) last year after he won his local qualifier at $26. But on the big day, he was scratched at the barrier when he kicked out and suffered lacerations.
Burleigh, surprisingly, said it didn’t take her too long to get over the devastating incident.
“You come across so many disappointments in this game and you just get used to them,’’ she said. “It was another way to get beat. It’s good to be able to have a second shot at it.”
Burleigh is confident Al Mah Haha can get to Randwick for the final on day one of The Championships in April by winning Sunday’s qualifier at Moruya, with Koby Jennings steering.
“It will be interesting to see how he goes on a wet track but he’s going better than he was this time last year,” Burleigh said. “He’s a more tractable horse and those few starts since he won (the qualifier) last year have made him a better horse.
“I think they’ll go everywhere on the track, especially by the second-last race, and he should settle in the first bunch but I don’t want him leading. As long as he keeps his momentum going, we should see him finishing well.”
Burleigh also races O’ So Tempting in the Class 2 Plate (1400m) and it’s the first time he’s been back to Moruya since winning there on debut just over two years ago.
O’ So Tempting ran a close fifth at his most recent start behind the promising Jodhpur.
“I would expect an improvement,’’ Burleigh said. “He’s got the tongue tie on now and that really helped him last start.’’
Koby Jennings will ride Al Mah Haha in the Country Championships Qualifier at Moruya. Picture: AAPSource:AAP
MATT JONES’S INSIDE MAIL
RACE 1 (12.55pm)
The change of venue from Nowra ensured Nieces And Nephews became equal favourite alongside Cavalier Charles, who has a wide gate, but led on debut after showing good gate speed. Nieces And Nephews has race fitness on her side and is a fairly adaptable type. O’ So Tempting won here on debut and the tongue tie was put on last start to good effect.
BET: O’ SO TEMPTING win.
RACE 2 (1.35pm)
Fantini didn’t get the clearest passage in the straight on debut but when she did, she worked home great for second. Vinaigrette isn’t the roughest. Put a line through her last run in town and look at her previous two.
BET: FANTINI win.
RACE 3 (2.10pm)
Ghost Town should get a drier track here than on debut. He’s on the quick back-up and has perfect draw and jockey to help him break through. Robert and Luke Price are giving Beaurama a chance to break his maiden in the bush and would like a drying surface. Antonio is another who has had a number of chances but has raced in better grade.
BET: ANTONIO win.
RACE 4 (2.45pm)
The race has been decimated by scratchings. Tic Tock Man is very fit and wasn’t disgraced at Gosford last time. Has the draw to be in perfect spot on the turn. Globalize is second-up after finishing runner-up at Sapphire Coast, while Buddabadah has finished in the placings in four of his past five starts this campaign.
BET: TIC TOCK MAN win.
RACE 5 (3.25pm)
Power Lift rises in grade but is going pretty well and will run out the mile. Catalanic is one to watch in the betting.
BET: POWER LIFT each way.
RACE 6 (4.05pm)
Haralben won his past two at class 3 level and has won on a soft track and looks to be a real 1000m specialist. Bombdiggity is also a last-start class 3 winner and did it quite well out in front. He almost claimed a Highway three starts ago and carries weight well. Piping Roller is also nominated at Randwick on Wednesday, probably because he ran fourth in November to Bandersnatch.
BET: BOMBDIGGITY win.
RACE 7 — CC QUALIFIER (4.45pm)
Assault’n’bathory will probably try to lead all the way or at worst sit outside the leader from a wide gate. He likes it wet. If Common Purpose brings his best and handles the ground, he’s got to be a huge hope after going close in town last start but stablemate Greenspan is more genuine, albeit a little less talented. Al Mah Haha won this race last year and his trainer says he’s going better now. Julian Rock is in a purple patch and likes rain-affected ground.
BET: AL MAH HAHA win.
RACE 8 (5.25pm)
Eurosay brings handy form into this and should win another one soon to improve a disappointing strike rate. Vendome held off a challenge to win last time and ran four lengths off Kylease this time last year. Gretzky will run on.
BET: EUROSAY win.
Irish Songs is among a strong line-up in the Country Championships Qualifier at Moruya. Picture: AAPSource:AAP
Mudgee trainer Gayna Williams has placed her hopes of saddling up a starter in the $500,000 Country Championships Final in the expert hands of champion bush jockey Greg Ryan.
Ryan will ride Williams’ lightly-raced Healing Hands in Sunday’s Country Championships Preview (1300m) at Dubbo, with the final on April 4 at Randwick the ultimate goal.
But it will be no easy feat as the five-year-old gelding goes up against Nyngan trainer Rodney Robb’s No.1 seed, Thermosa, and Kody Nestor’s last-start winner Risk Reward.
Nestor will also saddle-up TAB Highway winner and Championships contender Toulon Brook in the last race on the program before an all important barrier trial in which Sneak Preview and Fast Talking will go around in the 1000m heat.
Risk And Reward was tagged as a potential Championships horse after he ran out an easy winner at Dubbo on January 13 when having his first start for Nestor. He franked his credentials with an impressive two-length win over stablemate Toulon Brook in a 1000m trial at Dubbo on February 3.
“I am really happy with the way Risk And Reward is going,’’ Nestor said. “I don’t think the 1300m will be a worry in the long run. He has a bit of a wide barrier but he’ll push forward and I do think he is a horse with a fair bit of ability.’’
Kensington TAB Highway winner Toulon Brook aims to get his Country Championships hopes back on track after a disappointing Highway tilt at Randwick on January 11, beating just one home, when he tackles the Summer Sunday Handicap (1100m).
Racing Review with Ray Thomas – February 10
Ray Thomas relives the best races from the weekend’s racing at Newcastle and Caulfield.
“He came back with a little bit of an issue so we eased up on him,’’ Nestor said.
“That’s the reason I have backed off him and put him in an 1100m (Sunday). He can work through his prep from there. I have still got plenty of time up my sleeve. He’ll go around (Sunday) and probably look to go to Mudgee on March 1, there is a benchmark 66 over 1200m there and then straight into the heat (at Coonamble, Sunday March 15).’’
Meanwhile, Robb is pinning his hopes on a forward effort from his Country Championships hopeful Thermosa in the Preview, despite a wide draw (11) and topweight of 61kg.
Thermosa would only have to run up to his outstanding 1.2-length fourth at Warwick Farm two starts back to give himself a chance of taking out Sunday’s event.
The son of Squamosa and close relation to Dane Ripper subsequently finished a distant second to Nestor’s speedy Kenny Succeed in race record time in a 1200m open at Dubbo.
“He ran right up to his best that day,’’ Robb said. “You don’t have to be a great racing tout to know how smart Kenny Succeed is and, when he has his day, he has a big one.
“I don’t think the handicapper was too kind to him, it’s a pretty good field but they’ve got a job to do I suppose. I probably should have gone with a two-kilo claimer but he’s just not an easy horse to ride but Wendy (Peel) seems to handle him OK.’’
Originally published asMoruya, Dubbo tips: Attack with Purpose
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