By Ray Hickson
Reece Jones will be doing his best to treat Saturday’s $500,000 Newhaven Park Country Championships Final (1400m) like any other race but he’s well aware of what it means to connections of Spiranac if the mare is able to win.
It’s quite a rap from the four-year-old's connections, and trainer Rod Northam, that the 24-year-old, who still claims 3kg in the city, retained the ride on his favourite horse when it would have been so easy to replace him with a more experienced rider.
Jones has an imposing record of five wins and a second from six rides on Spiranac so nobody could argue he doesn’t know her well – and he sees that as his edge as he attempts to become the first apprentice to win the prestigious feature.
“I’ve been riding her every day and doing all her work. We just get along,’’ Jones said.
“I really like her and I think she knows who I am. We click together which is a great connection to have between horse and rider.
“I know Rod and the connections had options to put a Sydney jock on for the race but I’ve been lucky enough to get the call up.
“They showed faith in me, I really appreciate it and I hope I can pay them back on Saturday.”
Scone based Spiranac, $8 second favourite with TAB on Wednesday, was a dominant winner of the Hunter and North West Qualifier (1400m) at Tamworth on March 7.
Northam said shortly after the race that it was likely he’d give his apprentice the biggest opportunity of his career to date but Jones was still taken aback when it was made official.
He’s adamant the occasion won’t get to him, and it’s not like he hasn’t ridden against the likes of Hugh Bowman, James McDonald, Kerrin McEvoy and company, or at Randwick, before.
“This kind of race means a lot to country trainers and country owners, to be put on as a claiming apprentice in this race it’s quite rewarding,’’ he said.
“It’s still another race but it’s on a big stage for a lot of prizemoney. I’ve had a few rides in town now and it’s not too different to riding in any other race.
“I’d love to win because I know how much it would mean to everyone. It’d be awesome if I could pull this off and put my name up there as well.”
Jones said after riding her in trackwork this week that Spiranac, while she hasn’t raced or trialled for a month, will head to Randwick in A1 condition.
“She feels like she’s back to her best even though she is five weeks between runs,’’ he said.
“She had a nice couple of hit outs this week and hopefully that just tops her off nicely.”
Spiranac has drawn ideally, according to Jones, in gate seven in the Country Championships Final and that gives him options.
Spiranac wins at Tamworth on March 7
He’s adamant the mare doesn’t need to be ridden in a particular way, other than to ensure she’s comfortable in the run as she was when she won at Tamworth from near last on the turn.
“I gave her a good squeeze out of the gates, we wanted to be in the first half of the field, and got her to switch off and travel nicely,’’ he said.
“We got off their backs and she ended up running away.
“We had her ridden up on the speed for most of her runs last prep. She was always in that fourth, fifth, kind of position so if the tempo of the race isn’t there she can definitely take advantage of it.
“She’s able to do that over 1200m so at 1400m there’s no reason she can’t do it.”