By Ray Hickson
Last weekend Albury trainer Mitchell Beer was only able to watch trackwork while driving his car along the fence. He wasn’t allowed on the track and could only have two trackwork riders.
It hasn't been what you'd call an ideal build up to Saturday’s $150,000 Newhaven Park Country Championships Qualifier (1400m) at Wagga.
Blame COVID, sure, but Beer was just doing what he had to do to ensure his team were kept up to the mark and a horse like Mnementh was ready for a race that's been 11 months in the making.
“The staff have gone through so much drama and rigmarole for the last 12 months,’’ Beer said.
“These are the sort of things that make you keep going forward.
“Having won it last year it gives you that taste of what it’s like. To take it out was huge.
“These are the races we moved here to be in, getting in is one thing but to win it is something else.”
Beer had his first shot at the Southern Districts Qualifier last year on his home track and Sky Call delivered him a win he described as special.
Given the stress and obstacles the pandemic has thrown up if Mnementh or Previso can give the stable back-to-back wins special would probably be an understatement.
When Mnementh won a Benchmark 58 over 1175m on Albury Cup Day last year Beer knew he was the horse that could emulate Sky Call and win his way to the $500,000 Newhaven Park Country Championships Final at Randwick.
“I said to all the boys, he’s owned majority by the Albury committee so it was a big thrill for them to win a race albeit without a crowd, over a couple of beers ‘this is our Country Championships horse for next year’,’’ Beer said.
“It’s been on the front of the brain for 11 months. Nothing has gone wrong, I wouldn’t change a hair on the horse.
“He is absolutely spot on. I don’t think he has to improve too much on his last run to be right in it.”
The four-year-old ticked the 1400m box with a win at Albury in November and earned a short break before being set for his ultimate mission.
Two runs back have pleased the popular trainer, and James McDonald’s report from his last start fourth in a TAB Highway at Randwick on February 6 had him brimming with confidence that Mnementh was indeed the horse for the job.
“We ran the horse from 13 and we got no luck. He flew the lids and JMac let him roll up and one dug up inside him, he went to go back and one dug up inside him again, it was only that last 50m when they got him,’’ he said.
“James gave the horse a massive rap and all but said if it wasn’t on a Saturday he’d come down and ride him.”
Mnementh, $8 with TAB, drew nine in the Qualifier and Beer said that will give him his chance provided Jordan Mallyon can get his fair share of fortune in running.
“I’ve just concentrated on the horse, once they get around to the barriers we need lady luck on our side,’’ he said.
“I just think we have the right horse, we don’t need the heavens to align because we have a horse out of its grade. If he gets the chance I know he won’t let us down.”
Previso’s inclusion could be considered interesting given he is a Class 1 horse, drawn the outside, and an $81 chance but Beer is adamant the lightly raced galloper deserves his spot.
He’s had two runs since the spring and showed improvement second-up beaten just under three lengths at Wagga on Australia Day.
Mnementh runs fourth at Randwick on February 6
“I could have run another three or four but I learned last year it is about quality not quantity,’’ Beer said.
“We didn’t get a full field but it’s irrelevant, all the horses that should be in the race from the area are in it.
“I wouldn’t be running him if I thought he was making up the numbers. If they go hard and there’s a chink in a couple of the others he could fly home and finish in the money but he’s one that needs everything to align.”
Mitchell Beer on his Rosehill runners:
Scout (Race 2): “He’s going terrific, he’s been extremely unlucky at a decent level. Dropping to a Class 3 he gets in well at the weights. At Magic Millions last year he was running sixth to Alligator Blood and Eleven Eleven. He’s starting to work towards good form and he will run well.”
Spending To Win (Race 8): “He ran first-up in a hot Listed race at Caulfield and he pulled up with a bit of mucus. I thought he was a bit disappointing, he might take a couple of runs to work towards some of his prior form.”