Over the years, Royal Randwick has been a happy hunting ground for Mudgee-based trainer Mark Jones.
Before moving to Mudgee, Jones was in Dubbo, and he wasn’t afraid of a trip to town, landing three victories at Royal Randwick at a 17.1% strike rate.
Jones has enjoyed much success with good open-class gallopers, including the likes of Dr Farsnworth, Juerga, Fashion Flare, Jazzpprizzia, Boogie Nights, Raahtu, Atlantis, Coarse Cotton, and Diggers.
On Saturday, the veteran conditioner will be out to continue his excellent record at headquarters when starting Life’s A Party in the 1200m Class Three Highway Handicap.
The five-year-old has been racing in excellent form, winning two of her past three, and she has drawn gate nine in the $120,000 country-restricted event.
Following a good first-up second-placing to Wilbury – a subsequent Highway winner – when contesting an 1100m Class One Handicap at Wellington on October 30, she won well in the same grade and distance at Wellington on November 19.
Following a disappointing 13th to Wilbury in the 1100m Class Two Highway at Rosehill Gardens on December 2, the talented mare bounced back to form, winning the 1100m Class Two Handicap at Bathurst on December 18.
“This preparation, she has come back a bit bigger and stronger; she is not a big horse and a light-framed little thing,” Jones told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.
“She ran second to the thing that won in town the other day (Wilbury) and then won the next start at Wellington.
“We then took her to town, and it was a bit of a hard luck story in that race; she was shuffled back and caught wide, and she missed the kick a bit.
“We then sent her round again, and she won at Bathurst, so she backed up that story, and we thought she deserved another crack in town, and we’ll see how we go this time.”
It’s a quality Highway with the Brett Robb-trained Gallant Star ($2.80) the current favourite, while there is a lot of hype around the Marc Quinn-trained Bomarea ($3), and Jones said his $26 chance had it all to prove in stronger company.
“At the moment, I think she is going good enough to have a crackdown there, and hopefully, we are lucky enough to snag it,” Jones said.
“There are a couple of good ones in it, but you never know how good they’re until they are in it.
“I had a look at the noms (nominations), and a few dropped out, thank goodness, and it may be a bit difficult for her, but we won’t know how good she is until she is tested, and Saturday will give us a good guide.”
Jason Collett takes the ride, and Jones trusts the leading jockey to find a decent spot from the sticky gate in the early stages.
“I won’t be telling him a lot; there’s not much to tell a jockey like him,” Jones said.
“I’ll tell him her racing pattern and leave it to him to figure it out.
“On paper, two or three will want to be up there, and Jason should be able to sum it up from there.”
Racing in the 1100m Class Two Highway Handicap earlier this month, the Star Turn mare finished down the track to Wilbury, and Jones made the trip to Rosehill Gardens on the morning of the race.
Life’s A Party will already be in Sydney on Saturday, arriving at Steve Allam’s Bennett Lodge on Thursday.
“I just put her down on the truck to go with Snow (Brett Robb),” Jones said.
“We’ll stay tonight and tomorrow and bring her in on Saturday morning, so she’ll get every chance.
“If she eats and drinks well, that’s the main thing, but if she sooks for two days, we couldn’t be in trouble.”
It’s set to be another exciting Highway, and for Royal Randwick fields, click here.