Mark Mason gazing upon Armidale assignment

The Mark Mason-trained Zoffany’s Gaze will get his chance at Armidale on Monday. Image: Bradley Photos.

Untried past a mile, Mark Mason is excited to see what Zoffany’s Gaze can do in the 1900m Benchmark 74 Handicap at Armidale on Monday.

With Jon Grisedale in the saddle, the seven-year-old has drawn an inside gate, and bookmakers have rolled his price in from a $4.20 opening quote to $3.60. 

Although only lightly raced with 19 starts, the Tamworth galloper is a four-time winner. Two starts back, he triumphed in a 1600m Benchmark 66 Handicap on his home track. 

Five weeks between runs, he turned out at Scone on February 27 and found the line strongly, finishing fourth in the 1600m Benchmark 58 Handicap, beaten just shy of two lengths by the subsequent Dubbo winner, A Silvery Warrior. 
Mason couldn’t justify favouritism for Zoffany’s Gaze, suggesting the extra distance on the tight-turning Armidale racecourse would be a staying acid test for his gelding.

“These higher-graded races are good, and tomorrow, it’s the right race at the right time,” Mason told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.

“The way he races, he likes to get back and run on, and you would think he could run 2000m on his ear, as he doesn’t over-race. He settles into his rhythm and finds the line strongly.

“We gave him that run at Scone, and this race turned up, and it will be a good opportunity to see if he can run out the extra distance.”

“I just think the other day at Scone, he was a while between runs, so he had a good blow, and he’ll be better for it tomorrow.

“Plus, Armidale probably isn’t the perfect track for a horse like him that gets back and runs on, but he gets into it nicely.

“He was carrying 62kg last start, and tomorrow he gets in with 55.5kg.”

A good tempo will help Zoffany’s Gaze, and Mason hopes Grisedale can settle closer at Armidale. 

“With the race at Tamworth, it was run to suit him,” Mason said. 

“They went mad up front, and it was made for something to come from behind, and he was the fresh horse on the scene.

“Hopefully, they run along, being a 1900m race at Armidale, and he probably doesn’t have to get as far back, and he might be able to find a spot midfield and still run on at the end.”

Mason will take three live chances to Armidale on Monday. 

Braith Knock will ride Pocket Picker ($4.20) in the Country Boosted 1100m Class One Handicap and Deebo ($6) in the 1300m Benchmark 58 Handicap. 

“I reckon they all should run well,” Mason said. 

“With Pocket Picker, if anything can go wrong, it seems to go wrong with him, but on his day, he has a bit of ability. 

“The other fellow Deebo will go for a spell after tomorrow, win, lose, or draw. 

“The penny hasn’t dropped with him, and he is still pretty new, but he beat that horse of Cody Morgan’s (Last Frontier) last start, and it’s gone on and won two since.”

It’s a busy seven-race program for Armidale, with the first race jumping at 1.55 pm.