By Julieanne Horsman
He was the hero of the Country Championships, winning admirers from the outback to the ocean on his journey to Royal Randwick, and this Sunday Stoneyrise is set to resume after a well-earned break.
The gelding from Hungerford on the New South Wales/Queensland border will line up in the 1200m Crystal Sprint at Coonamble - his first start since the $400,000 Country Championships Final.
“He will need a run or two to top him up so I will be happy if he finishes in the first four,” owner/trainer James Hatch said.
“It’s been very hard to place him out here since his benchmark went up. We nominated him for the Cobar Picnic Cup but he got 72kg and we didn’t want to ruin him with that weight.” Stoneyrise’s dream run to the Country Championships began at the Coonamble Cup race day last year. With Mathew Cahill aboard, he won the Class 2 Handicap over 1100m in his first ever attempt at a TAB meeting.
“That was his test,” Hatch said. “He’d won four picnic races and only missed a place twice in his career at that point and I wanted to see how he’d go against a higher class of horses. I never could have imagined what was ahead!
“Everyone knows the colours now and he has a keen following in Bourke. Everyone wants to know where he is going and what he is doing.”
Jockey Mathew Cahill will reunite with Stoneyrise in the Crystal Sprint on Sunday.
“He will probably settle midfield and will need to rely on his turn of foot to get home,” Hatch said. “He’s been a slow coming up this time but the trip away will do him a world of good.
“Depending on how he goes we will look for some more suitable country cups for him. I think he will get out to 1600m.”
Hatch will also saddle up stablemate Jamazen in the 1300m Maiden Handicap. The three-year-old filly has placed in both her starts at non-TAB meetings.
“I will be interested to see how she goes over a longer distance against a higher class of horses,” Hatch said.
“Kacie (regular jockey) thinks she is more of a 1400m horse.
“She’s a bit immature and on the small side but she has given us a few signs she will eventually mature into a nice horse.”
Hatch is a one-man-band and will fulfil the roles of trainer, strapper and truck driver on Sunday. While Coonamble is a lot closer to Hungerford than Royal Randwick it’s still a seven-hour drive away but Hatch doesn’t mind though.
“I enjoy doing it. I wouldn't do it if I didn't love it. I don’t have too high expectations. As long as both horses please me with their racing style I will be happy man at the end of the day.”