Singleton Puts Faith In Stapleford To Chase Country Championships Crown

Trainer Scott Singleton is handing his apprentice Mitch Stapleford the biggest opportunity, and job, of his short career to date by giving the 21-year-old the task of qualifying Russley Crown for the $1 million Newhaven Park Country Championships Final.

Trainer Scott Singleton (Pic: Bradley Photos)

The Scone conditioner will have two runners in the $150,000 Newhaven Park Hunter & North West Country Championships (1400m) at Tamworth on Sunday, with Melody Again also set for the race.

Stapleford only had his first race rides back in August, and has notched 21 wins so far, but has done all the lead up work on Russley Crown and Singleton said despite the apprentice still claiming 2kg he’s earned his big shot.

“He’s a good kid and like anything in life if you’re not given the opportunity it’s pretty hard to get anywhere,’’ Singleton said.

“I’m happy to give him the opportunity and I’m sure he won’t let me down.

“I said to Mitch a while ago we want to give the horse three trials and have him right for the day and if you want the race ride put the work in.

“I think he has a good handle on what he needs to do on him and I wouldn’t put him on if I didn’t think he could do the job.”

The five-year-old’s connections have been waiting 12 months for another shot at the Country Championships and Singleton would say, as close as they came to a berth in the Final, he’s a better horse this year.

Russley Crown was only sixth emergency for the Tamworth race a year ago so didn’t gain a start but narrowly missed a place in the Final when he ran second in the Northern Wild Card behind Talbragar.

A year on he’s the second highest rated horse having won the Jungle Juice Cup two starts ago and returns after enduring a wide run in the Barn Dance back in November.

“He didn’t have a lot of luck in the Barn Dance, he was caught off the track the whole way and had a pretty tough run, and I thought to have him the best we can have him on the day would be to give him three trials,’’ Singleton said.

“A couple of times I nominated him and thought I might nearly need to race the horse but we’ve tried to give him solid enough trials and I think we’ve got him right up to the mark.

“He’s a sound horse, he’s a tough horse, and he’s going to get there in pretty good shape. On a few of his runs he’s going to be right in the mix.”

Singleton said one of the reasons it’s handy to have Stapleford ride Russley Crown is his familiarity with the horse as he’s a steed that needs encouragement.

“He’s one of those horses that’s not a hard ride but you’ve got to ride him ugly to ride him well,’’ he said.

“You’ve got to sool him along early and almost give him a tough run and that’s how he runs his best. He has to do it at both ends but I think he’s fit enough. He’s definitely good enough to be very competitive.”

It’s also been a long range plan to have Melody Again, to be ridden by Mitchell Bell, ready for her shot at the Country Championships but a string of wide barriers in TAB Highway engagements meant Singleton had to pivot a bit before finally getting her campaign underway.

A Highway winner back in August, Melody Again beat two horses home behind Atmospheric Rock at Randwick when she finally resumed a month ago then showed the trainer she’s on track with a game second on her home track.

“We scratched a couple of weeks in a row from wide gates and it was almost too long since she’d trialled to when she went around,’’ he said.

“She ran well the other day at Scone, she’s probably a little bit keen throughout and he had to expose her fairly early before the corner.

“She’s just been run down there late. She had a bit of a puff so I reckon she’ll have come on from that again and she should get to Sunday in pretty good shape.”

One Beat No Beat was also nominated for the Country Championships, and Singleton will accept with the filly, but her rating says she’s not going to gain a start and will instead run on the undercard.

Her current rating is 64 and Singleton said she’ll likely run second-up, after going down as an odds-on favourite at Newcastle late last month, in the Benchmark 58 over 1400m with a win vital to her chances of running in the Northern Wild Card in two weeks.

“She might be better than the other two but it’s early days for her,’’ he said.

“I thought I better put her in and accept with her and try to win the other race, that might give her enough points to get into the Wild Card.

“She’s pretty handy, just needed that first-up run. I always thought a bit more of her than the other two at the same stage.”

– Racing NSW

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