Raceday focus: Best bets at Wyong, Ballina
It's pretty simple for Queen Ablaze at Wyong on Thursday - run a big race and she'll get a crack at a Provincial Championships qualifier.
The Angela Davies-trained Duporth mare made a winning return to racing last start over 1100m at Gosford and Brenton Avdulla sticks with her again in the Benchmark 64 Handicap (1200m).
What was most impressive about the win was how easy Queen Ablaze looked on the line once she got past her rivals.
"She's a lovely mare and we just hope she keeps on progressing," Davies said.
MATT JONES'S TOP PICKS
THE SOLOIST (Race 5, No.8)
She did a lot in her first preparation, finishing it with a run in a top Listed race, and looks to have returned well on her trial form where she ran time.
CHINA GALE (Race 7, No.3)
He's a progressive horse who is first-up and his lead-up trial suggested he's ready to fire fresh from a cushy draw.
Race 5: 6, 8
Race 6: 3, 5, 6
Race 7: 2, 3, 6
Race 8: 1, 4
TRAINER TO WATCH
RICHARD FREEDMAN has a nice team of four heading to the Central Coast. The Soloist and On The White Turf look like the leading hopes.
SCROLL DOWN FOR MATT'S QUADDIE ANALYSIS & TIPS
KITTEAU (Race 1, No.1)
Hopefully he doesn't get bad luck here and he can show his true ability and get back into the winners' circle again at his home track.
JOCKEY TO WATCH
LUKE ROLLS teams up with Steven Phelps for five races and Brett Dodson for another and his rides look well placed and should enjoy the rain-affected track.
"It was a pretty good effort because she'd only had one trial back and I thought she was a bit soft going into it. She dug deep and won, though. Once she picked herself up and got past that horse she was great. She's still learning, though. Brenton Avdulla said she's still very green and doesn't know much about getting back then going past them.
"I think the mare has improved since her run and she looks a lot better than what she did at her first-up run so I'm very pleased with her heading into this race."
Another win on Thursday will ensure she runs in the $150,000 Provincial Championships qualifier at Gosford on March 16.
"It's on the radar," Davies said. "We'll certainly take on the Gosford Provincial Championships qualifier if she races well at Wyong. Its heat is over 1200m and we'd like to have a go at that.
"We're a small stable and we've got to try and unearth something. You need headline horses. You've got to strike while the iron's hot and she's a mare in form."
And if she did run in the top three and make it to the $500,000 Final at The Championships in April, Davies thinks she'll be ready to run out the 1400m event.
"Gee I hope she can get 1400m eventually," she said. "At this stage we're slowly progressing and trying to teach her the trade then we'll see how far we get."
MATT JONES' QUADDIE ANALYSIS
RACE 5 (3.40pm)
Segalas might be better with a run under her belt but she'll still do well fresh here with a good draw at a stable that's on fire everywhere it goes. Mighty Marmalade and Crafty Tycoon will race well but need to lift a little to get the job done. The Soloist resumes after showing enough at her first two starts in the spring to run in a Listed race. She was quickly spelled to come back at this time of the year, so there must be an opinion of her, and she's trialled twice for this.
BET: THE SOLOIST to win.
RACE 6 (4.20pm)
Queen Ablaze returned in fine order for a last-start win and she can go on with it here with Brenton Avdulla on board again. She rises in class here but she was soft to the line in winning last time, so it suggests she's going to improve. Radical Impact loves this track with four wins from six starts here and he's also undefeated at the trip when racing at Wyong. Hubble resumes for a stable that's punching well above its weight this year and The Iron Maiden will do better second-up.
BET: QUEEN ABLAZE to win.
RACE 7 (4.55pm)
Sunreel has had two trials before this first-up run but the last one was on January 9. She looked a talent in winning a couple of races last preparation and will be running on late. China Gale is another resuming runner and his trial against some nice horses at Randwick suggested he's come back a lot better. Clifton County is fit and on current form should do well, while smart mare Tinkermosa returns from a tie-back operation.
BET: CHINA GALE to win.
RACE 8 (5.30pm)
Zeppelin is very fit and he'll give this a shake with a claimer on board and a freshen-up might be vital for him in coming back to a mile. Holy Reign is doing all the right things this preparation and can continue to win at a trip that he likes. Sensacova wasn't far off the smart White Boots last start, so that's good enough form to run well in this race. Disgraceful is looking for the mile now and is third-up for it which is key.
BET: Exacta 1, 4.
Connections must have wanted to forget Kitteau's last run quickly.
It was a good old fashion horror show.
After looking like he was about to get a dream run up the rail it quickly closed up and he was stuck jogging behind a wall of horses to run eighth of eight. It was more like a barrier trial, so he'll be ready to fire in Thursday's Class 2 Handicap (1405m) at Ballina.
Trainer Steven Phelps said Kitteau was due a change of luck.
"It didn't work out last start," he said. "All the owners flew up from Sydney to watch him and we just couldn't believe it."
Phelps thinks he can win again if given half a chance.
"He'll carry the weight (62.5kg), there's no problems there whatsoever," he said. "He pulled up terrific from the last run and he's a lovely horse to do anything with.
"He'll give this a shake. If he had of got through the other day he would've won by a length but the circumstances didn't give him a chance. Since he's been here he's hit the line much harder and he wasn't doing that before he came to me."
Ester's Rose is another promising hope for Phelps in the last race on the card, a Benchmark 58 Handicap (1255m). She's a filly on the rise and has already won at the track and distance.
"She's out of my broodmare (Rose General) and all her family have won races, including General Nelson," Phelps said. "I can't see her getting beaten.
"She put in an eye-catching run first-up to win and last start at Grafton we just rode her the wrong way and ran into a nice horse."
General Nelson is Phelps' leading pick in the Open Handicap (1005m) over stablemate Aquajewel unless the heavens open up and the track gets into heavy range.
"The old General is my best hope in that race," he said. "They all love him because he's so honest and he's on his home track so I expect him to run well. He'll be there up on the pace and the cut out of the ground will suit all my horses. Aquajewel needs it to be heavy, though, to do something in that race. She's unbelievable in the wet."
A change of tactics might be the key for getting My Cousin Steve back into the winners' circle in the Benchmark 58 Handicap (1255m). He's third-up and peaking, fitness-wise, and should get a dream run fro, barrier four.
"I want him ridden quiet so he can be brought home and I've got him going over 1250m to see what he can do over that trip and I think he'll run it out," Phelps said. "He was a pull and tear horse but now he's relaxing."
Schill Rock You will be trying to break her maiden at start eight in a Maiden Plate (1405m) and Phelps thinks she can surprise.
"It wasn't a bad first-up run because I was probably half a run behind with her and she probably would've run second if that wasn't the case," he said. "She's better than her record suggests and she's been looking for the sting out of the ground."
MATT JONES'S QUADDIE ANALYSIS
RACE 4 (4.05pm)
Spanish Hurricane drops back two classes here and he'll love the sting out of the ground. He's fit and ready for the 1905m and should be hard to beat in a pretty average field. Steppin' Out is by Snippetson but will still run out a strong trip here, but may want it dry. We're All Ears has placed enough times to be considered an each-way hope.
BET: SPANISH HURRICANE to win.
RACE 5 (4.40pm)
Dash For Van is dropping back in distance fairly quickly and on current form he should be finishing it off well as long as he still has the speed in his legs. Delius has also been up and down in distance and should sit off the speed and look to let down and run over the top of the leading pack. Maquina Voladora has run above her odds at her past two runs, so punters should take notice of her, while Kidlat is showing more than enough to think he'll be a strong chance.
BET: MAQUINA VOLADORA each way.
RACE 6 (5.15pm)
Crooked Gent drops back in grade after a fair run last start and the step up in trip is what he needs. Tesarc is peaking third-up and hasn't been far off the winners at his past two but he's got the wide gate to deal with. Ambitious Prince's consistency means he's one of the main players here. Even when he doesn't run a place, he isn't far off the winner and he's had two trials before this first-up run, so he'll be ready to run a big race.
BET: AMBITIOUS PRINCE to win.
RACE 7 (5.50pm)
Bearly Thinking will try and use the good gate to get an easy lead and she'll love the cut in the ground and should look like a winner for much of the race. Stellar Jewel doesn't have great first-up stats and wants further. In a race like this, the lightly-raced horses that are carving out decent records are the ones to look at and Ester's Rose is that horse, so she should be in the finish as long as she keeps improving.
BET: BEARLY THINKING to win.