By Tony Megahey
Accomplished Goulburn trainer John Bateman has ridden with mostly adversity since a career-defining season in 2016 when he won his home leg of the Country Championships with big-hearted Lofty’s Menu followed by city success, including a Rosehill Gardens TAB Highway with talented mare Erika.
Since then Erika has gone amiss and retired to stud, while Lofty’s Menu after a 10-month absence with knee surgeries and a bleeding issue, went within a head of a spectacular comeback for Bateman at “The Gardens” last Saturday.
Bateman remains positive with his aptly-named outsider It’s A Lottery in the $60,000 TAB Class 3 Highway Plate (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday.
“That’s racing, you accept the good and bad times; we lost the mare, but she’ll be a decent breeding proposition, and Lofty has just been a marvellous, brave old horse after what’s he’s been through,” said Bateman who got his start as stable foreman for the late great Guy Walter.
While Bateman concedes 1500m is well short of It’s A Lottery’s best form, he says there’s a chance he could get conditions to suit in a race where his Goulburn neighbour Danny Williams is dominant.
The 12-time Highway winner has the form favourites in Kopi Luwak and Acquittal, who fought out a Royal Randwick Highway two weeks ago. Consistent, Mister Marmalade is a lesser contender.
At lengthy odds, Bateman's It’s A Lottery is second-up after strong wins over 2000m at Goulburn and Bathurst in June and July. It’s A Lottery carries 59kg for Josh Parr, and an inside barrier is irrelevant as the Dream Ballad gelding will drift back.
“It’s a deep Class 3 form race, but he’s fresh enough to be highly competitive if they go hard enough in front, and that’s often the case with country horses in these Highway races,” Bateman said. “He hasn’t got a turn of foot, but he’ll keep coming.
"If the pace is on he might just grind into it late. But if it’s leader-biased on the day, we’ll be up against it because we’ll be midfield or worse.
“But we’re having a shot because he’s come back really well this prep and his run at Kembla was terrific because he was caught wide. This is a harder race but it’s still a class 3 for country horses so he’s in his right grade. Obviously, he wouldn’t have been eligible if he’d won another race in town and there’s the prizemoney aspect.”
Meanwhile, Williams is short odds for another series win, and he has an impressive stable presence heading into the upcoming Country Championships, and ultimately the prestigious $500,000 Country Championships Final at Royal Randwick.
“My three all had jump-outs on Wednesday morning, we’ll make a final decision later in the week; Kopi Luwak did have some minor lameness after Randwick, but he seems fine now. And we’ve also got to check out the alternative Randwick nominations.”