By Geoff Newling
Almas and Queen Of Kingston resume their exciting careers 'side-by-side' for their Lismore stable at Ballina on Thursday.
Between them they won seven races from 16 starts last preparation for Lismore trainer Daniel Bowen and local owner Steve Butcher, and are to reignite their careers in tomorrow’s $22,000 TURSA Open Handicap (1200m).
Almas has drawn barrier six in the eight-horse sprint while Queen Of Kingston goes from beside him in barrier seven as they prepare for differing programs this campaign.
Queen Of Kingston is a five-year-old daughter of Nicconi with five wins from 14 starts and $74,920 in prizemoney. She hasn’t started since November 18 last year when seventh at Doomben.
Daniel Bowen hopes she might make it into the Sunday, March 17 Northern Rivers Racing Association Country Championships Qualifier (1400m) at Grafton.
Almas is a four-year-old gelding son of Mulaazem with five wins from 16 starts and $76,245 in prizemoney. He is headed "long range" to the rich The Kosciuszko (Randwick) and Ramornie at Grafton.
He won five of his 10 starts last time in, going for a spell after he won the 1200m Untamed Sprint at Lismore on Cup day; that was September 20.
He has since trialled at Ballina and won that 1005m sprint well, sitting three-wide early before easing back behind the leaders and then consuming them impressively in the straight while still under a good hold from Matt McGuren. It was a good trial.
Ben Looker rides tomorrow with regular rider Matt McGuren suspended.
“We’ll try and pick off a few races with him before we go to town,” Daniel Bowen said. “He’ll run at Ballina (tomorrow) and then again at Grafton in a 1200m on Country Championships qualifier day.
"From there we will look long range at the Kosciuszko and then maybe the Ramornie. It’s important we boost his profile to make those races. But he could start in a John Carlton Cup (winner is exempt from ballot in the Ramornie) and get a back-door entry to the Ramornie.
“Queen Of Kingston is obviously a very good horse coming off a limited preparation last time. If she wins (at Ballina tomorrow), she wins, and obviously that rules her out of the Country Championships Qualifier.
[*Can only qualify for Country Championships with five wins or less - both horses have won five races]
"Going into the 1400m of the Country Championships Qualifier off a 1000m race isn’t ideal but if it was any other horse, I’d say they couldn’t do it but she could pull it off.
‘We’ll see how we go anyway. Just hopes she runs a good race and is hitting the line. She is a good horse.”
Almas, he said, is still only 80% but trialled nicely, winning under a hard hold for Matt McGuren. “He’s done all the work,” Daniel Bowen said.
“He’s fit enough to perform first-up. He is a gross horse so this will do him the world of good too and he has had the right preparation. If he can win he’ll still have a lot of improvement in him.”
He knows tomorrow’s TURSA Open might be a small field but it will still be a tough race to win with the Ballina-trained Hydrazine and General Nelson drawing well.
Eight-year-old Hydrazine, a gelding son of Stratum with 10 wins and 15 placings in 63 starts, has been in good form for Stephen Lee.
He’s won two of his five starts on his home track and has drawn ideally in barrier one. Leah Kilner also jumps on and the Grafton apprentice claims 1.5kg off his 60.5kg.
Hydrazine won the Springflyer at Coffs over 1000m back in October last year but had two 'freshens since' returning with an unplaced 11th in the $250,000 Magic Millions Country Cup (1200m) at the Gold Coast on January 2. He was beaten less than five lengths by Mr Markou in that sprint and then finished second to talented Dominant Crown at Grafton last time out.
General Nelson is one of two Steve Phelps runners, the Ballina trainer also has mudlark Aquajewel engaged, and he is in great form too with two wins in his last three starts. Both of those wins came at Ballina where he has a 50% winning record.