By Julieanne Horsman
It’s unusual for more than a couple of days to pass without Barbara Joseph and Paul Jones having a runner, but there’s a good reason the mother and son training partnership hasn’t saddled up a single starter since January 22nd – they’ve been saved for the Bega Cup Carnival.
The stable has accepted with 16 horses for this weekend’s two-day event at Sapphire Coast Turf Club and they’ve got more than a few red hot chances.
Leading the charge is Almost Court who is among the top fancies for the $50,000 Bega Cheese Bega Showcase Cup. The New Zealand import has only been beaten once in his five starts in Australia and has a perfect record with young apprentice jockey Patrick Scorse who will ride him on Sunday. With Patrick’s claim, Almost Court will carry 56kg. It’s only 1.5kg more than when he won last month’s Narooma Cup by 2.3 lengths, defeating five horses who he will meet again in the Bega Cup.
“He couldn’t have been more impressive first up,” co-trainer Paul Jones said. “We were a little worried the 1400m would be too short but it wasn’t an issue.
“The gate (12) for Sunday isn’t ideal but it will allow Pat to run his own race. Let It Roll drew 1 and it will probably lead. We will try and sit outside it but if it doesn’t lead we can.
“Almost Court’s breeder and part-owner Brian Court is in town with Director (racing in the Class 3 1600m Handicap on Saturday) and will be trackside to cheer him on.”
If Almost Court wins the Bega Cup he will have one run in Sydney before being aimed at the Listed Canberra Cup on Sunday, 11th March.
Stablemate Rock On Zariz will also line up in the Bega Cup. She finished 6th behind Almost Court in the Narooma Cup and was only two lengths behind winner Let It Roll in a blanket finish to the Moruya Cup on 22nd January.
“I was very happy with her first go at a mile,” Jones said. “She went to the line hard held as there wasn’t much galloping room. In a race dominated by speed horses I think she did really well to come from back.”
Two well-bred debutants will step out for Joseph Jones Racing on Saturday after impressive trials. Havelka, a full sister to Group 1 placegetter The Virginian, will contest the first race of the carnival – the Kane McKill Tree Services Maiden Plate over 900m. She finished just a length off Caulfield Cup runner-up Single Gaze in an open 900m trial at Canberra two weeks ago.
“I was over the moon with her trial,” Jones said. “She was bolting next to some really nice horses. We have tried to place her to make a winning debut on Saturday so fingers crossed.”
Sepoy filly Leola goes into the Sapphire Plaster and USG Boral Maiden Handicap over 1200m with an open trial win under her belt. The three-year-old was bred by Corrumbene Stud founder George Altomonte and is a half-sister to Group 1 Light Fingers Stakes winner, Bennetta.
“Leola has developed a real affinity with jockey Carly Frater-Hill who rides her in work and will be aboard on Saturday,” Jones said. “She’s not easy to ride and is quite spirited but Carly can get her to relax. Coincidentally Carly used to ride her half-sister Bennetta in work for Grahame Begg a few years ago.”
Wonderbolt and Chasing Charlie will fly the stable flag in the Momsen Motors Bega Showcase Sprint over 1200m. Chasing Charlie will have to overcome a widest gate but Jones has high hopes for Wonderbolt.
“If he shows up like he did two starts ago and puts his best foot forward he will be hard to beat,” he said. “57kg is a nice weight for him as he has been carrying 59kg lately. He needs to get in behind the speed and not give away too much of a lead.”
Tyres Are Crucial resumes in the Bega Bobcats Class 2 Showcase Plate over 1200m. It’s an exceptionally strong race but Jones is confident the cards have fallen in his favour.
“He is absolutely flying at the moment,” he said. “He’s had a faultless preparation. Yes, the race is very competitive but with Pat (Scorse) on he gets in well at the weights. He will need to find the back of Manzana and switch off then come over the top of them.”
All Too Familiar could have lined up in the same race but Jones wanted to avoid a clash with Tyres Are Crucial. The three-year-old filly won on debut at Gundagai’s Snake Gully Cup Carnival in November and will be out to maintain her unbeaten record.
“We’re very pleased with how she is going,” Jones said. “She is showing promise to be a good miler so hopefully 1200m isn’t too short for her.”
Athonis was scratched from The Federal in Canberra on Friday in favour the Walcott Exploration Services SERA Country Championships Preview over 1400m on Sunday. His last start at Queanbeyan was full of merit, despite being nosed out on the line, and he has drawn well and got some weight relief. It will be a special moment if Athonis does manage to win because race sponsor Mike Walcott is also a part-owner.
Silky Mover can’t be discounted either. She’s no standout in the George Grant Barrier Attendants Class 3 Handicap over 1600m but she loves the Sapphire Coast track and has raced there four times for two wins and a third. One of those wins came during last year’s Bega Cup Carnival.
Alfden, Just A Spat, Boston Ivy, Ten Tigers, Wave Goodbye and Le Sacre Blur will also line up for Joseph Jones Racing on the weekend.
More than $400,000 in prizemoney is on offer across the two days of the Bega Cup Carnival. The acceptances for both days are strong and a good crowd is expected too with the event falling at the tail end of the tourist season.
A champagne breakfast will be held at the racecourse on Saturday morning to officially open the newly constructed stables for travelling trainers. There are 16 secure boxes which can be booked for horses to stay overnight, affording trainers the opportunity to race then relax for a couple of days with popular holiday destination Merimbula just down the road.