Jones Hoping Little Mare Earns Invite To Country Championships Party

The chance to contest a $1 million race restricted to country horses doesn’t come around often when you can count your horse numbers on a few fingers but trainer Mark Jones has those fingers crossed Life’s A Party can earn that shot.

Mudgee trainer Mark Jones (Pic: Janian McMillan)

Jones, who trains on the Mudgee course, has been targeting Sunday’s $150,000 Newhaven Park Central Districts Country Championships (1400m) with the lightly raced mare and she arrives at the race an impressive last start winner.

It’ll be Jones’s second appearance in a regional Country Championships, back in 2017 when he trained at Dubbo he had Nordic Noir run fourth and Eagles Dare sixth in the WRA Championships.

“I just poke around with three these days, I call myself semi-retired,’’ Jones said.

“It’s great for country trainers to get an opportunity to go in a race for $150,000 against country horses, it gives us an opportunity to pick up some decent prizemoney.

“I don’t really target it, I’ve had a few horses that have been suitable but have been over the 20 starts. She’s a bit different, she’s only had 10 starts.

“This type of horse is the ideal type, the up and coming type.

“You’ve got to have a go if your horse is ready. She’s basically been set for this race, so far everything is good.

“Her form is excellent, she’s working well, doing everything right and I’m pretty pleased going in.”

Life’s A Party signalled her readiness for the Country Championships with a runaway win in the Preview over 1200m on a heavy track at Bathurst on February 12.

Prior to that Jones travelled her to Sydney for two Highway runs and she finished second to current Country Championships Final second favourite Gallant Star at Randwick at the end of December and fifth behind Smart And Dapper at Rosehill in mid-January.

Grant Buckley, who was on board last start, takes the ride at Mudgee.

“She’s been going very well, we’ve had this in mind for a little while,’’ Jones said.

“The biggest query is whether she will run out a strong 1400m but we’ll find that out on the day.

“(Last start) it gave me good confidence going into the 1400m, I feel like she can run it but she’s yet to prove it.”

For a five-year-old, Life’s A Party has been very lightly raced and Jones said that’s for the most part due to her lack of stature meaning she was given time to furnish.

That was probably most evident in her two start winter campaign last year which disappointed the trainer and it seems the decision to tip her out then has been the making of her.

“She was very small so she needed a bit of time to mature, she’s also an excitable horse and not an easy horse to train by any means,’’ he said.

“It took a while to get her head in the game and now the penny’s dropping.

“She wasn’t a great eater last prep and had a couple of average runs. She’s come back a better eater, a stronger horse, and her form shows it.

“I’ve been very happy with the way she’s going this prep.”

First and second from Mudgee will earn the right to contest the $1 million Newhaven Park Country Championships Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick on April 6.

– Racing NSW

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