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WENDY Roche says she’s finally starting to see the best of Salvador and can’t see any reason why he won’t win his 3YO Maiden Handicap (1400m) at Kembla Grange on Thursday.

Salvador has placed three times from six starts but is a better horse than his record (6-0:2:1) suggests and he has run second at both starts this preparation. His last-start effort was a good one behind the impressive odds-on Chris Waller runner Star Of The Seas at Warwick Farm.

“Aaron Bullock sticks with him. He wasn’t going to ride at the meeting but he thought the horse had a good chance,” Roche said.

MATT JONES’S BEST BETS

BEST BET: SALVADOR (Race 5, No. 1)

He’s a city midweek-standard horse so he’s certainly up to this and you only have to look at his last-start effort to realise that. This is his race to win before going back to town.

NEXT BEST: CORINTH (Race 1, No. 3)

He probably should have won at Gosford last start and wasn’t disgraced when run down in the final stride by a stablemate, so stick with him.

VALUE BET: KISSING GAME (Race 7, No. 5)

After a pair of thirds to start her preparation, she’s ready to win now. The extra ground helps her a lot and she’ll be storming past them late.

LATEST BETTING: TAB FIXED ODDS

QUADDIE

Race 5: 1, 2, 4, 5

Race 6: 3, 5, 11, 14

Race 7: 1, 3, 5

Race 8: 2, 6, 7, 12

TRAINER TO WATCH

GWENDA MARKWELL has a heap of runners heading to her home track and many of them make strong cases, including Stealthy, Bounding Badger and Salon Miss.

JOCKEY TO WATCH

BLAKE SHINN is just about the best jockey in the country and he’s got the horses to give him success with Corinth, Rockafella and Art Of More leading chances.

SCROLL DOWN FOR MATT’S EXTENDED PREVIEW & TIPS

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“He’s on the quick back-up after running into a very good horse last start where he probably should have finished a bit closer than 2.8 lengths, but he beat the rest of the field by three lengths. He’s better than that (six-start maiden horse) and this is the first preparation where he hasn’t been shin sore.”

Following starts over 1000m and 1200m, he takes the natural progression up to 1400m which shouldn’t be a problem based on how well he looked on the line last start. Roche said Bullock just has to ensure the horse didn’t use up too much petrol in the first half of the race.

“I think he’s going to acquit himself very well as long as he runs the 1400m and settles,” she said. “He raced over 1400m at Randwick last preparation and something took him on and he over-raced and was shin sore again.

“I don’t think the distance is the problem. He just needs to settle and get to the line.”

Considering the drop in grade and form around him it’s very easy to like his chances but Roche said it wasn’t as simple as just turning up and winning.

“I’m a firm believer of when you step down in grade that the racing pattern can be trickier because a lot of the horses aren’t as genuine, but I think he has a very high chance of winning,” she said.

Marabel is her other runner on the card and she’s dropping back even further in grade after running unplaced behind Tornado Gal at Rosehill a month ago.

That was over 1800m and soon after the race Roche decided to give the Mossman mare a freshen up and drop her back in distance to today’s Benchmark 68 Handicap (1500m).

“I don’t think she can stay,” she said. “She’s been racing against a lot better horses and her best run this time in was at Scone in a Group 3 (Dark Jewel Classic).

“She’s been given sharper work with the blinkers on and has worked a lot better with them and I think they’ll help her race a lot closer, too.”

French jockey Nicolas Barzalona takes the ride on the four-year-old and Roche has plenty of confidence in him. He rides work for Roche and is adapting more and more each week since arriving in the country earlier this year.

“He was a champion apprentice in France and so far he just hasn’t been given the opportunities on good horses in Australia,” she said. “He’s ridden against and beaten Frankie Dettori and he’s a very good rider who is getting used to the Australian style of racing.”

Meantime, Goulburn trainer Tash Burleigh is backing Fireman Sam I Am to give her a winning start at Kembla Grange.

The I Am Invincible five-year-old ran third at Newcastle last start over 1890m and Burleigh feels he’s primed for a big showing in his Benchmark 66 Handicap (2000m).

“The last run at Newcastle has certainly brought him on so I’m expecting to see a bold showing from him,” she said. “I think he’s my best chance. He should run a really nice race and he’s in pretty good form around the stables. He’s slowly stepping up in distance, he’s won at 2000m from one attempt, and he’s a lovely horse.”

Luxurial is having her first career start in a 2YO Maiden Plate (1000m) and trialled up behind Flora Bel at her home track over 800m in 47.25 seconds and from gate six she’ll get all the breaks with Kayla Nisbet on board.

“She’ll be better with racing and I wanted to get her to a nice big, roomy track against her own grade,” Burleigh said. “It’s turned out really well that the whole race is basically first starters and I was quite pleased with her trial the other day and Kayla is pretty good with the young fillies.”

INSIDE MAIL WITH MATT JONES

RACE 1 (12.30pm)

1. Fireman Sam I Am looks to be the perfect 2000m horse and he’s ready to win again. He won over 1400m first-up which gives you an idea of his ability. 2. Lifeline Princess wasn’t far off the winner last start over 1800m and she’s bred to get better as she goes further. 3. Corinth got pipped on the line over 1900m last time and he shouldn’t be bothered about going to 2000m, and will be up on the speed. 5. Victory Anthem will be thereabouts and is close to converting a placing into a win.

BET: Quinella 1, 3

RACE 2 (1.05pm)

3. Sytus hasn’t looked like winning yet but is bred to do better over this trip, so that might be the key for him. 5. Carano also wants to get out to 1600m and can bounce back from an average run last start because this isn’t a strong field. 6. High Potential drops back to a mile which suits. Her best performances have come over this trip and 1400m. 1. Caribbean Gold is lightly raced and should improve now.

BET: HIGH POTENTIAL win.

RACE 3 (1.40pm)

1. Lightz is first-up and will be tough to beat considering he’s raced in much higher grade than this before. This is his chance. 2. Suo Jure likes to be up on the speed and I like the fact she remains at 1000m after a last-start win over the trip, and Tim Clark will rate her well in front. 5. World Force won on debut at Muswellbrook and was tipped out straight away. His lead-up trial was a winning one over 903m and he can go on with it. Expect 6. Zedforce to have improved off her spell and it that’s the case she can win first-up after an encouraging first preparation.

BET: SUO JURE win.

RACE 4 (2.20pm)

All of these are first starters so it’s a tough one to judge. 6. Done Right was held to the line in her lead-up trial and will get all the breaks from barrier two as will 8. Fighting Faith from gate two and she comes into this off a 3¼ length trial win over 807m. She looks to have the gate speed to lead. 7. Fabulosa finished seventh of 10 in her trial but wasn’t ridden out and the stable has just about the best reputation when it comes to preparing juveniles. 2. Coolgardie looked nice in his trial and Blake Shinn sticks.

BET: FABULOSA win.

RACE 5 (2.55pm)

1. Salvador looks to be placed to win here and is better than a provincial-grade horse despite still looking for his first win. This is his day. If there’s to be an upset it could be 7. Song And A Prayer who has done well in midweek city class so she must be respected on that form. Of the Waterhouse/Bott first starters we’ll side with 5. Kooza. And of Gwenda Markwell’s three runners, we’ll back 2. Esteem Spirit to get the better of 3. Beaurama and 6. Stealthy but there’s not much between them. 9. Highjacker isn’t the worst of them.

BET: SALVADOR win.

RACE 6 (3.35pm)

Another very open race. 11. Marabel has plenty of good form behind her and gets onto a firmer track which suits. She’s been freshened because the stable feels she doesn’t stay a trip but she was competing in Saturday city grade for much of this preparation. 3. Newtown Bluebag will improve off a good first-up run in lesser grade but loves the trip. If 4. Dorf Star overcomes the wide gate, he can finish it off and threaten the leading pack. Import 5. Ilwendo will be running on late and might surprise. 14. Belle Du Sud and 10. She’s Magical drop in grade so expect them to be prominent.

BET: MARABEL win.

RACE 7 (4.10pm)

1. Absolute has form behind Raqeeq and Roman Son which will hold up in this class and his trials have looked impressive. 5. Kissing Game is knocking on the door and she’s been crying out for this trip and John Thompson has her ready to peak now third-up. 3. Rockafella has just been off the pace in town and this is the first time he’s been back to the provincials since his debut run which he won. 9. Fames Shines is an underrated horse and if Jess Taylor can get him off the fence and to the outside he’ll get his chance.

BET: KISSING GAME win.

RACE 8 (4.45pm)

If 2. Art Of More takes any improvement from his first-up run at the same track he’ll be a force against a bunch of inexperienced horses. 7. Rebecca’s Quest is very fit and looks to improving with each race, and she looks to be a brave filly. 6. Lettre D’Amour will be at her peak but there’s still question marks on whether that’s going to be good enough. If 12. Salon Miss gets a start she’ll give this race a shake after a lovely first-up performance behind Suo Jure, who races earlier in the day, so its performance will be a good clue for this race.

BET: ART OF MORE win.

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