By Ray Hickson
Queanbeyan trainer Joe Cleary has left nothing to chance to ensure Rothenburg and Girls Are Ready are at their best for Sunday’s South East Qualifier for the Newhaven Park Country Championships at Nowra.
Both horses are right on the limit of eligibility having raced 20 times so it was important Cleary get the timing spot on and he believes he’s done so for their respective circumstances.
Rothenburg has had two starts for Cleary and he says the horse is “tap dancing” while Girls Are Ready tackles the race fresh from a trip to Queensland.
“The simple fact as to why Girls Are Ready hasn’t raced since the Gold Coast is she was up to 20 starts and not every day you’re going to get a three time metropolitan winner in a Class 5 race at Nowra,’’ Cleary said.
“I know it’s going to be a pretty hot field but if she can get some juice in the track they’ll know she’s there.
“And I’m extremely happy with Rothenburg, he’s basically telling me he’s spot on now.”
After discussions with managing owner Craig Sessarago it was decided to offer Blaike McDougall, the nation’s leading rider by winners this season, the ride on Rothenburg through his Country Championships preparation.
The four-year-old has impressed Cleary with his two runs back from a break, at Canberra and Goulburn, and topped off his build up with a barrier trial at Canberra last week to make sure he’s not beaten at Nowra on the score of fitness.
“I’ve been stoked with both his runs,’’ Cleary said.
“In his run first-up in the 1000m race, after he missed the run in the Moruya Town Plate, in another 20 yards he runs them over and again the other day at Goulburn in another 20 yards he runs them over.
“So he has his hoof on the till and he’s just come on so well. Troy Jordon, who rides his trackwork, said he wouldn’t hesitate to give this guy another trial and he’s tap dancing and ready to go.
“We’ve done everything we can, it’s been timed to a nicety.”
Cleary said there’ll be no wasting a good barrier if they're lucky enough to snare one in Thursday’s draw but if he draws poorly they won’t die wondering with first or second required to qualify for the $500,000 Newhaven Park Country Championships Final at Randwick on April 3.
It’s a long time until the $50,000 Wild Card (1280m) at Muswellbrook on March 21 for a second shot.
“If he draws wide we’ll be super positive, I’m not just going to go back,’’ he said.
“When James McDonald won a Highway on him he drew one and he gave him a joust out of the gates and was back fifth or sixth. When Jason Collett won on him, in the race he was disqualified, he was back second last and rounded them up.
“He’s pretty versatile, it’s just been about getting him fit because he’s a big gross doing horse.”
Rothenburg runs third at Goulburn on January 25
Girls Are Ready is having her second shot at the Country Championships having finished fourth in last year’s Qualifier at Moruya.
The six-year-old, a two time city winner at two and a Highway winner last August, was beaten a respectable 3.4 lengths by Stolen Jade, after running on from near last, at the Gold Coast on January 9 at her last start and also trialled at Canberra last week.
“I see they’ve forecast showers and that will definitely enhance her chances,’’ he said.
“She’s just been a bit tardy at the gates so I’ve had a little chiropractic work on her, she was a bit tight in the hamstrings after her trial.
“She’s been everywhere but she’s tough as nails and Jess Taylor goes back on her. We’re going in quietly confident, I’ll just be happy if both horses run well.”