LA COURBETTE has two things to overcome in Thursday’s Lake Illawarra Benchmark 65 Handicap (2000m) at Kembla Grange. One is the big weight and the other query is in her control.
The Matthew Smith-trained mare is the best horse in the race, which is why she is carrying 62kg, but she won’t give herself a chance if she doesn’t settle properly with Nick Heywood on board. She’s been able to relax in her races of late, but only when ridden cold.
Smith said she is racing well and if Heywood can have her in a midfield spot approaching the home turn, she can get the job done despite looking like she may want 2200m.
“She’s a bit of a highly strung mare, but when she keeps herself calm she’s got a decent win in her,” Smith said. “We’ve been riding her that way because she can overdo it if you ask her for it out of the barriers and she just wants to run along.
MATT JONES’S BEST BETS
BEST BET: ARTEMIS ROSE (Race 6, No. 1)
This is a much easier task for her after running behind good horses like Best Guess, Vellor and Lisdoonvarna of late. And she wasn’t far off them either so a repeat of those runs against this field will make her very hard to beat.
NEXT BEST: CEDARWOOD (Race 7, No. 1)
He ran behind Queensland Derby-bound Higher Ground last time and 1400m looks more attractive for him and the 3kg Chris Williams claim makes a big difference.
VALUE BET: PRIDE OF DARCI (Race 5, No. 9)
He’s another that gets a much easier assignment here after running against horses that have gone on to be Saturday-class runners. He’s won first-up, too.
Race 5: 1, 8, 9, Race 6: 1, 3, Race 7: 1, 2, 3, 8, Race 8: 1, 3, 4, 7
TRAINER TO WATCH
GWENDA MARKWELL is bringing a huge team to her home track and her horses look strongest in the first three races.
JOCKEY TO WATCH
ADAM HYERONIMUS probably won’t be on any favourites but his four runners present good value and if he can get one home you will have a good day.
SCROLL DOWN FOR MATT’S EXTENDED PREVIEW & TIPS
“She doesn’t have to be last and I’ll be telling Nick that. The key is to keep her relaxed otherwise she wants to get on the bridle and pull hard.”
The five-year-old is coming off a second placing at Kembla Grange last start when she carried 61kg behind Temprado, who went on to run less than three lengths behind Higher Ground in the Group 3 Frank Packer Plate at Randwick last Saturday.
Prior to that she had Group 3 form behind the likes of Karavali, The Pinnacle and Domed.
Smith said her last-start effort has her primed to take the next step and improve a couple of lengths against eight rivals.
“She probably looked like she peaked a little bit on her run, but with that run under her belt, she should pretty close to the mark,” he said.
“There’s probably not a horse in this field like there was that beat her last start so she’s right in it if the weight doesn’t pull her back.
“I’d love to see her midfield, four off the lead, rather than last and eight off the lead. If she’s in the right spot I’m sure she’ll give it a good shake.”
My Girl Maji can get the day off on a winning note for Smith in the first race — the Duck Creek Dash Maiden Plate (1000m).
She has had six trials, which always raises eyebrows, but Smith said he has been taking his time to educate her and she comes off a second placing to Copy Boy over 800m at Kembla Grange, so she will know her surroundings at her first start, which is a bonus.
“She’s a work in progress but has ability,” Smith said. “Her last trial was her best but at the moment her brain is going faster than her body. We’re trying to get her to relax and the field doesn’t look overly strong if she can do things right.”
Smith said the one to beat was Bounding Badger, who has finished in the placings eight times from 13 starts. “Gwenda’s horse obviously has the race experience and doesn’t do much wrong,” Smith said.
Meantime, Extreme Measure backed up Mark Newnham’s opinion of her last start and she’s set to continue her rise through the grades at Kembla Grange.
The three-year-old Smart Missile filly won easily when first-up in a Hawkesbury maiden last start and takes the natural jump up to a Class 1 event over 1200m.
She showed a great turn of foot last start and Newnham wasn’t surprised that she improved in her second preparation after two unplaced runs in her first campaign.
“It was a really good performance after suffering a bit of interference after the start and only beginning fairly,” he said. “She still managed to gather herself up and win, and the horse she beat then came out and won its next start. It was only a four-horse race but it still won, so the form is franked.
“I was expecting that. It wasn’t a surprise because her work had been very good. She trialled well, but without blinkers on. We put them on for the race and she’ll have them again for this race.”
From barrier one, with Josh Parr on board, she will get an easier run on Thursday and shouldn’t have to come from the rear of the field like she did first-up, and Newnham said she has really come on from that performance.
“She was very strong at the end the other day so she’ll be suited to 1200m at a nice big track like Kembla Grange,” he said. “She picked them up pretty well last time and if she can finish off the same, which I expect she will, she’ll be right in the finish.”
If Extreme Measure can run in the top three, Newnham will send her to a metropolitan midweek race for her next start. “It’s a solid enough field, but on her win the other day and on her work since, I’d expect her to measure up,” he said.
INSIDE MAIL WITH MATT JONES
RACE 1 (12.35pm)
Shall we give 3. Bounding Badger one more chance? She should have won already but hasn’t from 13 starts. She’s getting closer, and in a small field, she’ll lead and look the winner for most of the race. 4. My Girl Maji has had six trials ahead of her debut, which is a worry, but her last one was just about her best, and it was at Kembla Grange. 1. Battle Anthem did better than most thought on debut and will be an improver as will 2. Follow The Money.
BETTING STRATEGY: BOUNDING BADGER to win.
RACE 2 (1.10pm)
1. Clifton County hit the line very well last start and off that run punters will be keen to back him now that he’s gone up an extra 200m. 2. Stealthy will be a big improver after a real solid first-up performance and he too will be better over 1400m. 3. Soir De Lune went down by a big margin last start when sent out odds-on in a weaker race, so plenty of improvement is required. 4. Membership almost stole it last start and peaks for this. The field isn’t any stronger so she’s a top pick.
BETTING STRATEGY: MEMBERSHIP to win.
RACE 3 (1.50pm)
2. Dream Genie is knocking on the door and is showing plenty of improvement with each run and if that continues she will go very close. 3. Miss Jenny put in a career-best run last start and it wouldn’t surprise if she was the race leader. 1. Just A Joke is the interesting runner here and he’s bred to stay so 1600m first-up isn’t a concern. He will be hitting the line hardest. 5. Expiredtime is down in grade but needs to lift.
BETTING STRATEGY: DREAM GENIE to win.
RACE 4 (2.25pm)
1. Spin Bowles has just been running into one better and this field isn’t the hardest he has run against. He will be winning sooner rather than later but he might have to wait for another day because 2. C’est Davinchi took Spin Bowles on last start and comfortably beat him home so have faith that he can do it again. 6. Stage Pass is back after a year off and her last run was a narrow defeat to I Am Excited, who has gone on to be a star, so she’s got the X-factor. 9. Tactical Formation will come back a much better horse after being thrown in the deep end in high ground at his first preparation.
BETTING STRATEGY: TACTICAL FORMATION to win.
RACE 5 (3.05pm)
We will back Josh Parr to get Siam into a good spot on the speed from the wide gate and if he gets him into a good spot, he’ll have every chance with a good fresh record. The two trials have him fit enough to produce. Stablemate 8. Phabeni won well on debut but has been off the scene since August. He has had two nice trials leading into this and will be one off the fence with cover getting a nice run. 9. Pride Of Darci drops well back in grade for this and will be in the finish.
BETTING STRATEGY: PRIDE OF DARCI to win.
RACE 6 (3.40pm)
1. Artemis Rose will have a much better run in transit here and expect her to finish off better than last time when behind a couple of very nice mares. This is much easier for her and the blinkers go on. 3. Medovina should be up on the speed. She has got plenty of natural talent and she is easily up to this grade. 4. Ballet Rose is another that can be forgiven for her last run when three-wide the whole way. Best of the rest is 2. Can Dream
BETTING STRATEGY: ARTIMIS ROSE to win.
RACE 7 (4.15pm)
2. Scream Park is also nominated for the Group 3 Hawkesbury Guineas, so if she runs here expect a big showing despite giving older horses weight. Stablemate 1. Cedarwood was just beaten by a horse that went on to win a Group 3 race at its next start so his form is super and he raced like dropping back to 1400m would suit him better. 8. Popular is a better horse than her record (4:1-0-1) suggests and this is a suitable race for her to start her preparation. 3. Cuba will be an improver at the 1400m.
BETTING STRATEGY: CEDARWOOD to win.
RACE 8 (4.50pm)
3. Celebris is shaping up well for this after a last-start effort which would have really tightened him up for a 2000m trip. 1. La Courbette is the best horse in the race but has to carry weight and the key to her winning will be how close she is to the leaders on the turn. Too far back, and she won’t pick them up with 62kg on her back. 4. Royal Advance is the likely leader and will put up a good effort, while 7. Saint Katrina will love going up to 2000m.
BETTING STRATEGY: CELEBRIS to win.