Rosehill preview: Scone trainer Stephen Jones gives Akasaki genuine chance in group debut


Trainer Stephen Jones believes Akasaki is a genuine chance of giving his building Scone operation a boost when the four-year-old has a first crack at group level on Saturday.

Jones, who trained in Sydney for 20 years, moved from the Gold Coast to Scone in 2017 and will have his first runner at the elite level since when Akasaki contests the group 3 Maurice McCarten Stakes (1100m) at Rosehill.

The trainer has worked his team of 20-25 horses at a property close to where he will build his permanent base.

Jones came back south with the promise of taking on more horses from prominent owner Gerry Harvey, who has been a long-time supporter. 

“It’s been good, living the country life,” Jones said of his time so far in Scone.

“I’ve bought a block and we’re going to build this year, but at the moment I’m renting next door.”

Stephen Jones

Stephen Jones

Akasaki, originally trained by Todd Willan at Muswellbrook, has had four victories in 11 starts for Jones and won the Quirindi Lightning Handicap (1100m) at his most recent, on February 16.

Wide throughout, Akasaki powered home carrying 60.5kg to win by two lengths.

Akasaki’s last-start victory, as well as two wins and three placings in Sydney, gave Jones the confidence to take on the $150,000 Maurice McCarten. 

“He’s been very consistent so we thought we’d give him a go at the next level,” Jones said.

“He finished off nicely and the times were good [at Quirindi]. 

“He’s been consistent in Sydney and he’s been winning or thereabouts all the time, so I think he deserves a chance.

“I think he’s a genuine chance. I think he’ll run good and he’s right up to them.”

Akasaki, to be ridden by Corey Brown from gate five and carrying 53kg, opened as a $13 chance with TAB Fixed Odds on Wednesday.

“It’s perfect,” Jones said of the draw. 

“There’s a couple of quick horses in it and we’re happy to just sit off and wait until he gets his rhythm. He gets home strong at the end.”

Also racing at Rosehill will be the Kris Lees-trained Aide Memoire, Danish Twist and Just Dreaming in the group 1 Coolmore. Aide Memoire drew best on Wednesday with gate five. Danish Twist drew 11 and Just Dreaming 13. Prized Icon drew six for the group 2 Ajax Stakes.

On Wednesday, Newcastle trainer Ben Smith was pleased with the home trial win of stable star In Her Time, which is set to resume in the group 1 The Galaxy on March 24.

In Her Time finished four-lengths clear of the field in a time of 57.86 seconds for the 1000m, with a last 600m of 33.12, on a Good 4.

It was easily the quickest 1000m time of the morning, even though jockey Corey Brown made sure the five-year-old mare had plenty in reserve.

The three-time group 2 winner has not raced since injuring her hoof in the group 1 Manikato Stakes last October.

“It was a nice trial,” Smith said. “She’ll just have a bit of a hit-out next Tuesday and that will top her off nice now and she’ll be ready to go Saturday week.

“Corey was happy, and if he’s happy, I’m happy. It was just about her doing her thing.

“It was nice to see how easy she did it and marry up the times compared to the other heats. She pulled up well and she’s getting fitter every day.”

The Lees-trained Dal Cielo, which refused to leave the barriers at his most recent start, won his trial. Unraced stablemate Extreme Sacrifice was also impressive, while group 2 winner and Vinery Stud Stakes runner-up Nurse Kitchen was sixth in her first public hit-out for Lees.