It was thought for a moment last week that Al Mah Haha was picked by one of the last two remaining slot holders for the Kosciuszko before Racing NSW dismissed the rumour.
Goulburn trainer Tash Burleigh updated the situation ahead of his first-up run at Warwick Farm on Wednesday.
“He’s not confirmed, but he’s in the mix,” she said.
“There’s been a chat between one of the slot holders and myself but it’s just a bit of a waiting game at the moment because they’ve obviously got a few other options.
“We’re business as usual and we’ll stick to the plan. I just wanted to give him a first-up run then have a few weeks between now and possibly the Kosciuszko.”
Burleigh knows her phone might be ringing hot if Al Mah Haha can win Wednesday’s Benchmark 72 Handicap (1100m) in western Sydney.
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And that’s why she’ll be feeling a little pressure on her way up to Warwick Farm.
“There’s a lot on the line. I’ll go there with butterflies and I don’t usually go to the race nervous but there’s a big race we’re trying to get into,” she said.
“He’s spelled really well and has come back and hasn’t put a foot wrong this preparation.”
He looked quite good when running fifth in a hot trial last month over 800m and took plenty out of it.
“He’s right where we want him and he had that nice trial behind a few good horses like Gytrash and Fasika and he wasn’t anywhere near fit so I was pretty happy,” Burleigh said.
“He’s come along in leaps and bounds since that trial and I hope to see a bold run first-up.”
Al Mah Haha has been one of the more unlucky horses in NSW country racing.
He was scratched at the barriers moments before the 2019 Country Championships Final at Randwick and this year he ran a close second behind Gracie Belle in the big race.
It was one of four-straight second placings last preparation.
“It was surreal because there was no crowd there. It was dead silence and really weird,” Burleigh said.
“He ran so well every start last preparation. He’s been unlucky and hopefully this is his preparation.”
One of Al Mah Haha’s main rivals, The Bopper, was scratched from today’s race yesterday afternoon when drawing barrier 12 for Kris Lees.
Miss Fox is the other boom horse that Burleigh’s six-year-old will have to beat and Koby Jennings is back on after riding him in the Moruya heat of the Country Championships earlier this year.
“I’m happy with barrier one. We’ll let a few horses go by him and sit three back,” Burleigh said.
“It’s a nice race for Al. There’s a few up-and-coming horses who have run in nice Highways and done their tricks in the country.”
Last start winner Plaquette and Hulk are other in the race with claims
If Al Mah Haha can win he’ll just about secure his spot in the $1.3 million Kosciuszko, to be run at Randwick next month.
PEPPER’S STAYER LOOKS GOOD AT ODDS
When markets opened for Wednesday’s Warwick Farm meeting and Fox Beat was rated a $23 chance for the fourth race, his trainer knew he was sneaking under the radar.
Canberra trainer Luke Pepper only has a horse with country form but also knows that if you’re going to bring a horse to town with lesser form, then a staying race is the type to target.
“I thought he’d be about $15 so he’s a good each-way bet at that price,” Pepper said.
Fox Beat runs in a Benchmark 72 Handicap (2200m) after running two lengths off the winner when fifth last start at Moruya.
He’s only had one go at Wednesday’s trip for a win and there’s no standout going around in the staying race.
He’ll also drop from 60kg to 54kg which comes into play over the trip.
“He’s been looking to get out to the 2200m and has been carrying big weights and running really well,” Pepper said.
“He drops back down to the minimum now and has run really well in a 2400m race at Randwick and I think he’s a more mature horse this time, so I’m looking forward to it.
“The weight drop is the biggest key. He’s not a really big horse and when he’s carried 60kg in the bush he hasn’t had the turn of foot.
“He should have finished a lot closer at Moruya after getting poleaxed, so I think he can run really well now.”
Jean Van Overmeire will ride the Foxwedge six-year-old out of barrier three and he should get the run of the race just in behind the speed set by Frenzied.
“He’s a genuine stayer and Jean has had a couple of rides on him, which is a positive too, and I can’t fault the horse,” Pepper said.
“He has also been good over the trip before, which is a box ticked.”