By Ray Hickson
It’s not usual practice for Grafton trainer John Shelton to deep end a lightly raced filly but he’s been so taken with Tara Jasmine he found Saturday’s Newhaven Park Country Championships Qualifier at Coffs Harbour irresistible.
The Kosciuszko winning trainer sends the three-year-old into the $150,000 feature over 1400m at just her fourth start and with such a reputation she’s the $13 TAB favourite to win the series Final at Royal Randwick in April.
Shelton said plenty of thought went into whether to be conservative or ambitious and in the end it came down to proximity and the filly’s X-Factor.
“We were going to take her to Sydney for a Highway the Saturday after but it’s a long trip down and back for a young horse,’’ he said.
“It’s better prizemoney and only three quarters of an hour away so we thought we’d have a throw at the stumps.
“She’s just got that something about her. She’s a lovely filly and has a great nature, but she saves it for race day and she’s not the best trackworker in the world.
“She does enough and she’s hard to get a real guide on but take her to the races she’s full on.”
Tara Jasmine won on debut at Grafton on October 20 then went under as a $1.18 favourite at Lismore a couple of weeks later.
But she made a real statement in winning a Class 1 on her home track earlier this month, running 1:08.40 for the 1200m, with 59kg off a wide gate, and putting almost five lengths on her rivals in a performance that stunned Shelton.
Despite working early Punter's Intelligence sectional data shows the filly still ran a last 600m of 33.79, two lengths quicker than any rival, and a last 200m of 11.24.
“She was a bit tardy at the start and she did a lot of work,’’ he said.
“As soon as I thought she was going to lay down at the furlong she put three or four on them.
“When a Class 1 horse does something like that you know you have something a little bit special.”
Mikayla Weir has the ride on Tara Jasmine on Saturday and Shelton described barrier four as perfect for the clear $2.50 TAB favourite.
“She’s better ridden with a sit but Tegan (Harrison) had not much option the other day,’’ Shelton said.
“She won’t be tied down to too many instructions. If she begins well, there looks to be a bit of speed in the race, she can just tuck in but if she begins too brilliant she’ll be wherever she’s happy.”
Tara Jasmine wins at Grafton on February 2
Shelton, who won the inaugural The Kosciuszko with Belflyer, also has Great Marlow pressing his claims for a top two finish and a berth in the $500,000 Final at Randwick though the trainer said he’ll need everything to go his way.
Great Marlow, $51 with TAB, won a Class 1 at Grafton on the same day as Tara Jasmine, running 1:09.12, and that sealed his spot in the race.
“He’s a good honest horse and won pretty well the other day,’’ Shelton said.
“I think the 1400m will suit him, the bad gate is against him so we’re hoping for luck. He will beat more home than beats him home.
“He looks really good, whether he is up to them I’m not sure but when it’s in your backyard you’ve got to give them a shot.”