Lofty's Menu set to take on Royal Randwick

WINNER: John Bateman, fourth left, presents Lofty's Menu in the parade ring with Racing NSW chief executive Peter V'landys, Goulburn Race club president Ken Ikin and vice president Fred Cooper, and Goulburn MP Pru Goward. He later thanked horse owners, the Randell family, for sticking with him since he took over some of Guy Walter's stable roster, including the brown gelding who romped home in Race 7. Photo: David Dawson

WINNER: John Bateman, fourth left, presents Lofty's Menu in the parade ring with Racing NSW chief executive Peter V'landys, Goulburn Race club president Ken Ikin and vice president Fred Cooper, and Goulburn MP Pru Goward. He later thanked horse owners, the Randell family, for sticking with him since he took over some of Guy Walter's stable roster, including the brown gelding who romped home in Race 7. Photo: David Dawson

JOHN Bateman showed a side as soft as Goulburn and District Racing Club's track at the Country Championships on Saturday afternoon.

His welling tears were sudden and passing, just like the unexpected shower and smattering of hail that fell two hours ahead of key qualifying Race 7.

His show of emotion in the parade ring as Race 7 winner Lofty's Menu trotted into view was a tribute of gratitude to his late mentor, Guy Walter.

"I was thinking of Guy and what he'd done for me," Bateman told the Post. "Guy and Wendy [Walter] have done a fair bit for my career.

"He'd been good to me and he was the main instigator in getting us" [to Goulburn], and the gelding was "one of his horses as well".

Horse owners, the Randell family, chose to stick with industry veteran Bateman as a newly licensed trainer after Walter's death in 2014.

"They're good owners," Bateman said. "They've stuck by us for a while now." He considers the Randells a valuable part of "the team".

"It's a team effort," he said of the excellent ride by Lofty's Menu to the winning post. Some of his team "go back to the days when we were with Guy.

"Some of us have been together now for six or seven years down here, [first] working for Guy, and then with me since I've taken out my licence.

"They've been a great help and you can't do it without the others, the trackwork riders, the [jockey] on his back, the staff working around you.

"There are boxes to do, horses to be fed and washed, and the rugs. There's a lot to do and it's not a one-man-band. It's a team effort."

Saturday's 4.50pm ride went exactly to plan, even considering the unexpected weather changes and downgrading of the track from good to soft.

Goulburn trainer John Bateman's horse Lofty's Menu was steered to instruction by jockey Paul King to take the $100,000 Race 7 at Saturday's Country Championships, a key qualifier for the Royal Randwick final on April 2. Photo: bradleyphotos.com.au

Goulburn trainer John Bateman's horse Lofty's Menu was steered to instruction by jockey Paul King to take the $100,000 Race 7 at Saturday's Country Championships, a key qualifier for the Royal Randwick final on April 2. Photo: bradleyphotos.com.au

Lofty's Menu was behind by many lengths and carrying 59kg, but made short work of the straight to finish two and a quarter lengths clear of his closest rival.

Bank On Henry, trained by Barbara Joseph and son Paul Jones in their Canberra stable, finished a strong second, edging out Danny Williams' Ashjata, third.

Lofty's Menu proved a popular winner with the sizeable crowd of Goulburn race-goers and guests, recording his sixth win from 10 starts to much cheering.

"We decided to scout wide. That was our plan, that was the instruction [to jockey Paul King] on how to ride the horse: get back and come wide at them," Bateman said.

"When the rain came, the track was a bit soft on the inside. We had decided to scout wide, and when the rain came, it was 'scout a bit wider'.

"That's the way I got Blake to ride him last time at Canberra. It was a 1200m race ... The track was chopped up a bit down there, the same scenario.

"He jumped out and went back second-last and at the 700 [metre mark] he started to ease him out and make ground on him."

Some of the horses in Saturday's race "were in the Canberra race" too, Bateman said. The powerful field made him more sure of Lofty Menu's future prospects.

"He was set for that race a long time ago," Bateman said. "Yesterday's race [the Sera Country Championships Qualifier (1400m)] was the race we were after.

"If you want to put a line through TAB's Highway Handicap, which everyone is using as their form guide, I think 11 out of 17 - or something like that - TAB Highway Handicaps have been won from this area. So those horses, they're the hardest horses to beat, and they were in the race yesterday. So his chances are pretty good."

For the next week, "we won't be making any plans," but Bateman said there would be "another run in three weeks' time, or something like that.

"We'll go back and have a look at the progam and see how it suits him. First and foremost, we'll see how the horse pulls up over the next week ... and then we'll go from there."

As for who rides the gallant steed into the Country Championships final at Royal Randwick on April 2, "I'm going to leave it open," Bateman said.

"Blake [Shinn] is the first option. If Blake wants to ride him, the ride's his. If Blake doesn't want to ride him, well I daresay Paul will be right up there in amongst them."

He praised his Saturday jockey for having ridden Lofty's Menu "twice for two wins. He has done nothing wrong on the horse."

But "Blake's won on the horse a few times before and he was a stable rider for Guy and he rode my first winner for me.

"So, it's a good association and the ride will definitely be offered to him first. I'll wait for as long as I can, but it's not going to be hard to find a jockey."

Sixteen horses will run in the Country Championships final in Sydney, comprising the first two home in each region and at the wildcard in Muswellbrook on March 27.

The Country Championships, having begun in Goulburn on February 20 and Scone on February 21, will have toured regional and provincial NSW in the lead-up.

The tour will continue in Wagga Wagga (February 27), Taree (February 28), Grafton (March 6), Wellington (March 13), Dubbo (March 20) then Muswellbrook.

Both Lofty's Menu and Bank On Henry will run in the April final and, should either win, TAB will donate $5000 to Riding for the Disabled here in Goulburn.

See more:

>> Goulburn turns out in fine form at Country Championships | Photos

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