By Julieanne Horsman
When Racing NSW announced the introduction of The Kosciuszko, a $1.3million sprint exclusively for country horses, Scone-based trainer Stephen Jones didn’t have to mentally scan his stable for a suitable contender. He knew exactly which horse wanted in the race and immediately started campaigning for his selection.
Akasaki boasts a record of eight wins and eight places from twenty-eight starts and has amassed more than a quarter of a million dollars in prizemoney. He’s raced at Group and Listed level, won twice in town and is renowned for his booming finish. All these achievements are spelled out on a promotional poster Jones had made in the hope of catching the eye of a slot holder.
“Akasaki is a battler’s type of horse and we want to make sure as many people as possible are aware of him,” Jones said. “We just need one slot holder to see the poster and give him a chance. Akasaki never runs a bad race and is one of the best sprinters in the bush.”
Locals have wasted no time in getting behind Akasaki, sharing his poster on social media, buying tickets and promising to give him a starting slot if they are lucky enough to win one. Anyone can buy a ticket for $5 from their local TAB outlet. 12 winners will be drawn and they will have the all important task of a choosing a horse to represent them in The Kosciuszko.
“One of Akasaki’s owners Ian Campbell owns the Willow Tree Hotel and he’s been encouraging everyone who comes through the door to buy a ticket,” Jones said. “Being in The Kosciuszko would be like going into the Melbourne Cup for me.”
At his most recent start in the Listed Ramornie Handicap, Akasaki finished just three lengths behind Brisbane-trained winner Havasay – a multiple Group placed sprinter who has earned close to half a million dollars in prizemoney. He ran second to Easy Eddie in a photo finish at Rosehill Gardens in the start before that and flashed home from last at the turn to win by more than a length in a BM80 during the Scone Cup Carnival in May.
“He’s been a great horse for us since we got him at the end of 2016,” Jones said. “He didn’t have much form before that. We’ve just looked after him and sent him to the paddock briefly after every run and he thrives on it.”
Jones’ efforts have been the most significant so far but he’s not the only one campaigning for selection in The Kosciuszko. Within hours of the launch, Goulburn’s Danny Williams was spruiking his stable of hopefuls which includes Kopi Luwak and She Knows. Tuncurry’s Terry Evans declared he fancies the chances of Arise Augustus. Wagga’s Scott Spackman expressed his desire to prepare Country Championships third placegetter O’So Hazy for the race and Queanbeyan’s Joe Cleary is eager for Wagga Town Plate winner Coolring to give it a crack.