It’s the time of year we’re all looking out for potential Kosciuszko runners but trainer Kody Nestor could unveil a major Country Championships hopeful in lightly raced mare Artie’s Aura at Scone on Thursday.
Nestor has won the past two editions of the Western Districts Qualifier, with Sneak Preview in 2020 and Activation this year, so on the back of her runaway debut win in February he wondered whether Artie's Aura might be a prospect for 2022.
He'd like to do some experimenting with distance with the four-year-old, who has her fourth race start in the Sharp Office Handicap (1200m), and the steps she takes this preparation will help shape his opinion on the Championships.
"I thought after she won her maiden was she the right type of filly and when she came back this time in I galloped her myself one morning and I was getting more confident about it,'' he said.
"I thought her run had plenty of merit in it the other day even though it's a Class 1. Empowerment came out and won again which is a good sign. In our area it's a touch weaker than other areas so she could end up (in the Country Championships)."
Artie's Aura, $3.30 with TAB on Wednesday, had no favours in her gallant second behind Empowerment at Scone back on July 26.
After stepping away slowly from gate three, another horse kicked up to her inside and she found herself three wide and that made the job harder.
"She was first up, 1200m, got caught three deep no cover and still had the hide to finish off,'' he said.
"It had to take away from her finish doing the work she did. She takes a few days to get over her runs but she's taken good natural improvement out of it.
"She probably went into that race about 80-85 per cent right whereas she's 100 per cent fit now. I think the (2.5kg) weight drop helps a lot too as she's not a big mare."
Nestor said initially he was keen to go straight to 1400m with Artie's Aura but believes she will benefit from a second start at the 1200m before going up in distance.
"She's drawn a good barrier to get a soft run and she ticks a few boxes,'' Nestor said.
"I think she will get a mile eventually and I'd love to see her out to that trip this preparation."
Meanwhile, Nestor said his major Kosciuszko hopeful Cardiff came through his barrier trial win at Dubbo last weekend in good order as he nears a return in Sydney later in August.
The gelding, a $15 chance in TAB's all-in market on the $1.3m country feature, ran 58.39 in winning the 1000m trial over stablemate Fast Talking.
"He really needed the trial, I haven't been able to get as much work into him as I liked with wet weather about,'' Nestor said.
"I would have loved an 800m trial so the one instruction I gave was to not let him off the bridle. He ran good time and I was happy with him.
"It's knocked the edge off him a touch and I'm going to organise a 1000m jump out at home before I take him to Sydney."
At this stage Cardiff is scheduled to resume in an 1100m Benchmark 78 on August 28.
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