By Ray Hickson
Goulburn trainer John Bateman is leaving a Country Championships start for Common Purpose in the hands of the gods.
The equation is a simple one – if the five-year-old, who has won five of his 12 starts, wins the Inglis Country Highway (1300m) at Warwick Farm on Wednesday he’s ineligible to contest the Championships.
Bateman said Common Purpose’s first-up win at Canterbury came as a bit of a surprise but when he did win there was no thought of deviating from the plan to contest Wednesday’s race second-up.
“We haven’t swayed, if he happens to win we’ll have to find a race for him in the city,’’ Bateman said.
“The owners will take a win, especially if it is in town, any day of the week.
“I had (Canterbury) earmarked for him first-up, not thinking he could win it because they’d be a bit sharp for him around Canterbury, then this race.
“He was probably about 80 per cent, there was a fair bit of improvement in him.’’
Common Purpose is the $3.50 favourite with TAB to win himself out of Country Championships contention.
Common Purpose's first-up win at Canterbury on January 23
He’s on the third line of betting at $11 in the pre-post Country Championships market behind Noble Boy, who made it four wins from four starts at Warwick Farm last Saturday.
The gelding was strong at the finish of the 1100m first-up, running the fastest last 200m of 11.87 (Punters Intelligence), and Bateman said the victory bought the horse on significantly.
“We have barrier one and Hugh Bowman, there’s plenty of pluses,’’ he said.
“On Saturday the inside was off a little bit, he doesn’t handle the wet too good and he doesn’t like it chopped up.
“He travels well in his races, he has led and won and has sat in behind them and won. He’s in with a chance and hopefully we either win or run second.’’
If Common Purpose doesn’t win at Warwick Farm, he’ll face off with Noble Boy in the SERA Country Championships Qualifier (1400m) at Goulburn on March 2.
Bateman has stablemate Nicconita engaged in a Benchmark 64 event at Newcastle on Saturday in an attempt to get her Country Championships prospects back on track.
The mare has been a frustration with two wins and nine placings from 14 starts and she’s developed a habit of missing the start.
“I’m giving her a jump out in the morning with blinkers on to make sure she jumps,’’ he said.
“Hopefully they switch her on a bit, it’s no good putting them on if she’s not going to react out of the machines with them.’’