By Ray Hickson
While country trainers are doing their best to unearth a Kosciuszko contender, Goulburn trainer John Bateman has his eye on the 2019 Country Championships with Nicconita.
Bateman is happy to suggest stablemates Common Purpose and Lofty’s Menu should be considered by the Kosciuszko slot winners but as far as Nicconita is concerned it’s all about The Championships.
The filly, runner-up at her past three starts, has the chance to confirm Bateman’s plans in the TAB Highway Handicap (1500m) at Rosehill on Saturday.
“She’ll go for a spell win, lose or draw and hopefully she can get into The Championships,’’ Bateman said.
“She needs to be ready by mid-February. She’d probably only want one run going into the (Goulburn) qualifier and I reckon the 1400m is going to be right up her alley.
“She’ll be fully developed, nice and strong, and it’ll be about time she stepped up to the mark.’’
Nicconita, a winner of two from nine starts, is on the back-up after an eye-catching second behind Gitan at Randwick last Saturday and is a warm $2.20 favourite with TAB.
Nicconita's closing second at Randwick last Saturday
After stepping away casually, she found herself 29m off the lead at the 700m and made her run wide out where few horses made a lot of ground on the day.
Punters Intel data showed she ran 34.48 for her last 600, the best of the race, including an 11.26 from the 400m-200m.
“She’s a little bit overdue,’’ Bateman said.
“I think riding her back is the key to her now she is relaxing. She ran the fastest sectional the other day for the last three and she got herself in trouble while the winner was up there getting all the favours.
“I don’t fill jockeys’ heads full of instructions. I don’t want to be revving her out of the barriers because if you do that she’ll fire up.
“Because she’s drawn inside if she jumps and is in the first half as long as she’s travelling all right and happy there I’ll leave it up to James (McDonald).’’
Bateman said the three-year-old has done well in the past week and had no hesitation in backing her up to chase a well-deserved Highway win.
And he dismissed any concern about the extra distance being a negative.
“If she’d have won the other day I probably would have bypassed it, but she ran a good race and I thought the 1500m at Rosehill is probably a bit easier than the 1400m at Randwick,’’ he said.
“I think she will run a mile, I always have, but this time in I kept her fresh for the first few runs over 1200m because of the wet tracks.’’
Stablemate Lofty’s Menu is about to turn eight and while he ran last at Rosehill two weeks ago at his first run back from a spell, Bateman is expecting improvement in the ATC Thanks Owners Handicap (1200m).
The gelding has a wide gate to contend with but has in-form apprentice Sam Weatherley in the saddle and Bateman said he’ll be much fitter for his just under four length first-up defeat.
“He went into the race with no barrier trial or jump out and I was happy enough with his run, he wasn’t beaten far,’’ he said.
“His work has been nice, he galloped the other morning and went pretty well and he ran a bit of time for him too.’’
Lofty’s Menu is rated a $51 chance with TAB.