By Tony Megahey
Gilt-edged New Zealand racing investments by the Barbara Joseph and Paul Jones stable can continue to prosper with dual winner Athonis in Saturday’s TAB $60,000 Highway Handicap (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens.
They purchased healthy shares in Athonis as a maiden from Kiwi trainer and property developer Brian Court, and previously maiden stablemate Almost Court, who then put together a winning country treble in August. They’ve accumulated over $80,000 in prizemoney.“We’ve managed to win five races and a couple of placings from eight starts between them, so when Brian rang after Athonis’s last win, he was ecstatic,” Barbara enthused.
“Athonis is highly promising, he’s an on-pacer; ran the race record for winning his maiden at Moruya and he ran time again winning at Canberra. His final section at Canberra was absolutely flying.
“And this prep Almost Court will win better races. He’s a beautiful athletic type and so is this gelding.”
Athonis has been posted at nice odds and is attractively weighted on 54.5kg less the 1.5kg claim for in-form Gai Waterhouse apprentice Rachel King for Saturday’s episode. A significant weight drop from the 59kg and 58.5kg the five-year-old Stravinsky gelding carried for his all-the-way recent wins.
Barbara’s stable is on a streak with a winning double at Gundagai last week, including the historic Snake Gully Cup with Mercurial Lad, another winner at Moruya on Tuesday, plus the spectacular form of her mare Token of Love. She was placed in the Listed Matriarch Stakes at Flemington two weeks ago behind the Waterhouse’s classy Savapinski, along with a Moonee Valley placing and a Canterbury Park win.
And for Athonis on Saturday, it’s no secret it’s again 'catch me if you can' tactics for Barbara, while Paul is at the New Zealand sales.
“We’ve drawn wide, but he’s a natural front-runner with no weight, so we’ll be trying to lead again, and that’s the place to be at Rosehill,” Barbara added. “It’s a tougher race of course, but we’ve put a girl on because he’s a horse who really responds to the gentle touch.
"He’s resented the whip for senior jockeys and Rachel is a really capable hands and heels rider. So hopefully we can do a Gai Waterhouse with a race fit front-runner.”
With wins up to 1600m in lesser grade, Saturday’s 1500m will present no problems for Athonis. A typically strong Highway has impressive last start winners, Kurt Goldman’s Only Choice, Melanie O’Gorman’s Pomme La Belle heading early betting markets, along with Matthew Dunn’s Realing and Paul Messara’s Roseito. The Goulburn stables of Danny Williams and Goldman have won the past three Highway events.