Scone trainer Stephen Jones set his talented four-year-old Hit The Target for the upcoming Country Championships Qualifier at Tamworth after he came through his first Provincial test with flying colours at Newcastle on Saturday.
A son of Kentucky Derby winner Uncle Mo the gelding was heavily backed in the 1400 metre Class 2 Handicap. Hit The Target firmed from $5 into $2.90 and jockey Mitchell Bell took advantage of the converted rails barrier, putting the favorite in the box seat from the outset.
The winner challenged the leader Oakfield Twilight half way down the home straight and went on to win by more than a length. Hit The Target was bred by his owner Gerry Harvey and he has won three of his five starts, with one placing.
Jones has a huge opinion of his four-year-old and he is keen to take on a cracking field in the Hunter North West Country Championship Qualifier at Tamworth on March 10. “I was very confident today despite his previous two wins were in the country at Scone. Hit The Target should have finished a lot closer when beaten 2.7 lengths in a Rosehill Highway last start. He lost a plate in running and ran up the backside of one in the straight. This horse should have won on debut at Muswellbrook in November when he missed the start badly. I gave Hit The Target a week in the paddock to keep him fresh for today and he always looked the winner in running. I am under no illusion that the Tamworth Qualifier won’t attract a quality field, but this bloke is pretty good. Mitchell Bell said he will make the trip to Tamworth to ride him.” Jones said.
The popular trainer turns 63 in May. He became an apprentice jockey at 15, trained at Rosehill and Canterbury for 20 years before a 13-year stint on the Gold Coast. Harvey convinced Jones to move to Scone two years ago and he has had 30 horses in work.
Paul Perry’s promising three-year-old Airwing showed the benefit of a solid debut on the Newcastle track two weeks back, when he led throughout to win the 1200 metres Maiden Handicap. A son of super sire Redutes Choice, the gelding was given a gem of a ride by Bobby El-Issa who stacked the field up before racing clear at the top of the straight.
Goulburn mare Nicconita ran up to her recent good metropolitan form when she beat fellow Goulburn galloper Al-Mah Haha by just under a length in the final event the 1200 metre Benchmark 64 Handicap. Leading Southern Highland trainer John Bateman prepares Nicconita and she relished the spacious track. Shaun Guymer, who won the Quirindi Cup the previous day aboard the Newcastle galloper San Francisco, steered Nicconita to victory.
Irish jockey Lee Magorrian, attached to the Chris Waller stables these days, landed a double for the premier trainer aboard Be Mindful and Julkkis.