Messara Warns Akasawa Still To Peak After Championships Victory

Trainer Paul Messara is quietly confident he has the right horse in Akasawa to claim the Newhaven Park Country Championships Final after the five-year-old enhanced his already strong record at Tamworth on Sunday.

Trainer: PAUL MESSARA. Picture: Racing and Sports

It's the third horse the Scone trainer has qualified for the $500,000 feature at Royal Randwick and he said there's plenty up the horse's sleeve in terms in fitness a month out from The Star Championships.

Jockey Aaron Bullock settled the gelding, well supported into favouritism, right on the back of the speed and left it as late as possible to pounce on Running Bear to take out the $150,000 Hunter & North West Country Championships (1400m) by half a length with Casino Lord a close third.

"Everything was spot on, I spoke to Aaron very early on in this horse's prep and said make sure you're available and he was,'' Messara said.

"The horse was probably a bit deeper than we thought early on but got him to settle. He's a very strong horse, he loves winning, he gives 110 per cent. When things get tough he finds the line.

"The timing is perfect for this horse because he enjoys that stiff 1400m.

"He wants it well run because he could always go up in trip. We had a short preparation, unconventional, but we had him well enough to perform and I think he will be better going into the Final."

Messara won the race, held at Scone, back in 2017 with Caerless Choice and qualified the same horse a year later as he ran second behind Suncraze. Tarangower also qualified running second in the 2015 edition.

The win moved Akasawa to $8 equal favourite to take out the Final on April 1 alongside Testator Silens who makes his bid to qualify next Sunday in the South East district at Moruya.

Bullock, who rode five winners on the Tamworth card, said it's an ominous sign that Akasawa was able to win the race first-up since mid-December and take his record to six wins from eight starts.

"The job's not done yet. When he's at his best when I get off him he's ever blowing and that's the way he was today,'' he said.

"I knew being at this distance around this track we had to be there. I had to ask him a couple of times to hold his spot but I knew he was a fit horse, a good horse.

"If Paul can have him that way in the Final he will give it a mighty shake. He's a good horse, his record suggests that."

Muswellbrook trainer Jan Bowen said Running Bear, who hit the lead 200m or so out, will be much improved for the run and will look to give the mare another run in Sydney before the Final.

"She needed the run, she's been three weeks between runs so that will top her off,'' she said.

Running Bear is an $11 chance in the Final. Meanwhile, the early favourite Ezekeil led the field to the home turn but was unable to sustain the gallop and held on to run fourth.

Racing and Sports