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Athonis Will Be "Spot On" For Sapphire Coast (Thursday)

Co-trainer Paul Jones expects Athonis to lead the stable's hopes at the Sapphire Coast meeting on Thursday when the six-year-old steps out in the Bega District News Benchmark 74 Handicap (1608m).

Jones, who trains in partnership with his mother Barbara Joseph and brother Matt, expects Athonis to be hard to beat following his last-start effort at Wagga on October 20 when a close-up fifth to Spunlago in the League Of Their Own Mile (1600m).

"That was his first go in an Open handicap at Wagga last start and he ran very well, as we thought he would," said Jones. "He went into that race three or four weeks between runs, so he'll be spot on for Thursday's race which looks a nice race for him.

Athonis (Qin Yong) returns following a Canberra victory. Image by Bradley Photographers

"Sapphire Coast suits the on-pacers and he should be hard to beat and definitely looks the best of our runners at the meeting."

Athonis rarely runs a bad race and has compiled a handy record of three wins and 10 placings from his 21 starts. Simon Miller takes the mount on Thursday.

The Joseph-Jones stable will also saddle up Darts Away alongside Athonis in the Benchmark 74 but his record at 1600m is not encouraging, finishing out of the place on the five occasions he's run over that trip.

While Jones isn't totally convinced 1600m is completely beyond him, he admits the six-year-old was disappointing at his most recent run over 1600m at Kembla back on September 22 when he finished eighth of nine as the $2.20 favourite.

"He just didn't let down in the straight at Kembla and was beaten 250m out," he said. "If he was beaten 100m out you could say he didn't run out the mile, but 250m out?

"He also seems to reserve his best for the Canberra synthetic track, so Athonis is definitely our much better hope of the two in Thursday's race." Apprentice Aaron Sweeney will claim 1.5kg on Darts Away who will carry topweight of 58kg.

The stable has winning chances in several other races at Thursday's seven-race meeting, including Trapper Tom (Maiden Plate over 1608m), Just A Spat (Maiden Plate over 1008m), and Withorn and Dark Alibi (Maiden Hcp over 1208m). Tyres Are Crucial lines up in the Benchmark 58 over 1408m but Smiling At Shadows is likely to be scratched from that race to be saved for Wagga on Friday.

Just A Spat was a beaten odds-on favourite when she resumed at Bombala on October 20, but had little go her way in the run and finished a close third.

"She hasn't had a lot of luck in some of her races and her first-up run the other day was a good effort under the circumstances as she got a few mentions in the stewards' report," said Jones.

Jones is expecting a forward effort from first-starter Dark Alibi, a three-year-old daughter of Star Witness, who lines up in the Domain Maiden Hcp (1208m). Dark Alibi goes into the race after one barrier trial at Canberra on October 19 where she finished sixth behind Bonitas.

"On paper, the sixth in the trial probably doesn't look too flash, but she was hitting the line very strongly and we're happy with her going into Thursday's race," said Jones. "She and Withorn, who is resuming, can both run well in that race."

View the final fields with full form & race replays for Sapphire Coast here

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