Jacenza Emerges As A Country Championships Contender

By Greg Prichard

Scone trainer Rod Northam hopes he has a Newhaven Park Country Championships horse on his hands with Jacenza, which made an impressive return to the winning list in the feature race at the Taree meeting on Tuesday (2nd January).

The four-year-old gelding was solidly backed from $6 into $4.60 favouritism for the Harrington Hotel Harrington Cup Benchmark 66 Handicap over 1300m and displayed plenty of stamina to get the job done.

Jacenza (Chelsea Hillier; yellow sleeves) holds out Imatruestar (Koby Jennings) to score at Taree on Tuesday. Image by Trackside Photography

Jacenza jumped on terms with his rivals from barrier eight in the nine-horse field and apprentice jockey Chelsea Hillier chose to go forward rather than drop back.

It took 270m for Jacenza to work across to the lead on the fence and the tactics proved to be spot on because the extra effort the horse made to get to the front didn’t leave him without any fight for the business end of the race in the home straight.

Eventual runner-up Imatruestar came hard at Jacenza halfway down the straight and for a few strides looked like going past him to win, but Jacenza found something extra and went on to score by half a neck.

Jacenza had a faultess debut campaign in September-October of 2022, winning at his first three starts before going for a spell.

But then he finished unplaced in eight straight races spread over three campaigns before winning this race.

“He came back from that first spell and I tried to win Highways in town with him, but he had some bad luck in races and lost a bit of confidence,” Northam said.

“Those first three wins were all at country tracks, so I thought I’d bring him back to the bush for this run and try and get a bit of confidence back into him.

“He was third-up at Taree and based on his last-start run, when he finished off really well in a Highway at Randwick after being blocked for a run, I was expecting him to go really well.”

Jacenza’s three previous wins had been over 1000m (twice) and 1100m and this was the first time he had raced over further than 1200m. “He was quite strong through the line, so I was particularly happy about that,” Northam said.

“It suggested he’d handle 1400, so he might be a Country Championships horse. “He probably needs to win another race to get his benchmark up high enough to get into a qualifier, so he’ll have another race in another two or three weeks and we’ll know more after that.”

The qualifiers and Wildcard Country Championships events are run from mid-February to late March around NSW, with the $1 million Final scheduled for Royal Randwick on Saturday 6 April.

View the full results with race replays for Taree here