By Tony Megahey
The long odds quoted about bush discard Whiskey Throttle** suggests he has little hope of winning a modest Scone maiden and likely the pundits will be even less flattering as he rises to the $60,000 TAB Harvey Norman Highway Plate (1600m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
But his veteran Scone trainer Stephen Jones contests his first Highway race positive enough to defy his outsider’s price of $31 and Jones even aspires for bigger occasions.
The Highway series, aside from the spectacular prizemoney, is about giving battling country trainers an opportunity on the big stage, leading into the $200,000 Anniversary Highway during the Sydney Spring Carnival.
And Saturday’s theatre surrounds the return of Winx, who these days is mentioned in the same sentence as the great Aussie cricketer Don Bradman.
Aside, who could forget the lead up to last season’s $400,000 Country Championships Final won by $30 bolter Free Standing, a $2600 buy for Coffs Harbour’s three-horse trainer Cathleen Rode? Or the sentiment surrounding Stoneyrise from the back of Bourke, who took three days to travel to Randwick and filled outback pubs for the final on Sky Racing?
Jones with Whiskey Throttle, a $31 debut winner at Scone, holds those same hopes. Jones, 61, over decades has trained at Canterbury, Rosehill, Gold Coast, Malaysia and Scone and rates his inexperienced giant Whiskey Throttle highly.
Jones, who has entrepreneur Gerry Harvey among his clients, said: “Whiskey Throttle was bushed and given up without a start as a no-hoper,” he said. But Jones was drawn by his imposing frame and took a gamble on the unraced Ready’s Image four-year-old.
After 'finally getting him right' Whiskey Throttle trialled smartly behind a subsequent city winner and confirmed the trial by powering from near last to win a maiden.
“Onwards and upwards, there’s a lot more to this big fella and the form around him than most realise,” Jones enthused. “The strength of the trial was the thing; it was won in fast time by Brett Cavanough’s maiden Another Sin, and it was backed to win the Rosehill Highway.
“Ours found lengths out of the trial to win at Scone. He’s big and strong with lots of improvement. His win was outstanding, over the top of them from near last.
"I realise it was only a maiden, but Cavanough proved you can win a Highway out of grade with the right horse. You never know the limits from winning a first start maiden until the next grade, which is always tough.
“He’s against horses who have won two and three races so we’ll know soon enough on Saturday. But this is his first preparation and we haven’t got anywhere near the bottom of him yet.
"They can only win, he’s suited from 1300m out to 1600m on the big track and has no weight. We’re like any country stable, you hope to develop something good enough for that Anniversary Highway with the fantastic prizemoney [$200K].”
Jones’s stable star is Akasaki with five wins from 16 starts, including a Warwick Farm success. On Saturday, Whiskey Throttle carries 56kg likely reduced by claiming apprentice Blaike McDougall who is yet to be confirmed, but rode him to win at Scone.
**Also entered in race 7 at Gosford on Thursday