By Ray Hickson
There’s an easy way and a hard way for consistent Goulburn mare Nicconita to earn her shot at the 2019 Country Championships.
Trainer John Bateman figures the four-year-old needs at least one more win against her name to ensure she’s in what is shaping as a competitive field for the Goulburn Qualifier on March 3.
So the easy solution is for Nicconita to post her third career win in the Autumn Carnival On Sale Handicap (1200m) at Canterbury on Wednesday and Bateman can then plot his way to the heat.
Plan B is to run in a 1400m Class 2 Highway at Rosehill on Saturday week.
“If she wins on Wednesday she’s not eligible for that Highway but it will get her in,’’ Bateman said.
“I was going to go straight to the Highway but I thought she’d need another run before going to 1400m.’’
Nicconita is one of two horses Bateman is aiming at the Country Championships, the other being Common Purpose, and the trainer was more than satisfied with the mare’s first-up effort at Randwick on Boxing Day.
It was the first time she’d contested an 1100m event, she was slowly away but finished off late to run sixth behind Miss Celebration, running the fastest last 600m of the race in 34.77 (Punters Intelligence), and faces many of the same rivals on Wednesday.
Bateman said her effort was good considering Nicconita was underdone and also had a barrier mishap.
“The other day when she drew inside she got a bit cantankerous in the barrier and hit her head I think, because she came back with a black eye and a bit of skin off,’’ Bateman said.
“She’s never missed it like that, she can be tardy away, but she made up reasonable ground without being real flash.
“She was pretty fat the other day and her work since has been good.
“She’s never started in an 1100m race, her shortest race has always been 1200m. The only reason I ran her was I thought she was a bit big and I didn’t want to knock her around in a 1200m race.’’
Nicconita was an $11 chance with TAB on Tuesday afternoon yet she started half that price over an unsuitable trip when resuming.
Bateman said drawing an outside barrier isn’t necessarily a negative – at least she won’t be first into the stalls – so long as there’s enough tempo on.
Nicconita’s first-up effort at Randwick on December 26
With Canberra horses eligible for the Goulburn Qualifier it further strengthens a pool of horses that will include those trained by Danny Williams and Kurt Goldman to name a couple.
But Bateman believes Nicconita has the ability to more than hold her own.
“It’s a race I’d like to target with her and if she finds her best she’s going to be a good chance in the race,’’ he said.
“There will be horses jumping out of the ground that people haven’t quite got ready yet.
“A few jockeys have got off her and said they don’t think she can run the 1400m but the way she’s relaxing and working I think she is definitely a 1400m horse.’’
As for Common Purpose, the five-year-old will have just two starts prior to the Goulburn heat.
He hasn’t raced since September where he ran fifth behind Wagner but won three straight, including a Highway, prior to that and is due to have a jump out next week.
The 2019 Country Championships Qualifiers commence with the Western Region heat at Dubbo on February 10.