Phelan the pressure ahead of Ashburton

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Mark Jones calls it character building, but even the bravado doesn’t override the frustration.

Twelve months ago, the Burnham horseman was riding on cloud nine as his stable galloping star Phelan The Power struck a rich vein of form.

Good enough form to see him place third in one of the most high profile races of Cup Week – the Couplands Mile on the middle day at Riccarton.

Fast-forward to now though, and it’s a different story all together.

Phelan The Power is out of form and Jones is now in a race against both time and form to get the horse back into the black-type race during Cup Week again.

“This time last year he had the best form line, now he’s got the worst. It’s been character building that’s for sure,” Jones said.

Enter the Ashburton Racecourse, and their meeting tomorrow on a day in which Jones is hoping the showy chestnut can turn his form around and get back on the right track.

“It’s D-Day for us with a view to the Couplands, he’d want to be going very good this weekend for us to press on towards it.”

It had been hoped, after a really positive and encouraging week leading in, that last weekend’s Riccarton meeting would have been the turning point, but again Jones found himself heading back home post-race feeling a little deflated.

“I was really disappointed with him last week. We were a lot happier with him heading in that race.

“He had to do a bit of work early, but he should have finished off a whole lot better than he did.”

Again, he’ll head to the races this weekend happy with where the gelding is at and there’s the hope that the step up to 1600m on the Ashburton track, which really suits his racing style might be the key to unlocking the potential that is there.

“There’s a good run to that first bend down the back straight at Ashburton, which should suit him.

“We’ve put Joe Doyle on him this week too, so that won’t hurt. Maybe because he’s a bit older now he’s looking for more distance, and you’d like to think he gets his chance this week.”

Phelan The Power, a winner of five with 12 placings and close to $200,000 in stakes, steps out in the open handicap event – the day’s feature at Ashburton – and takes on a handy, but manageable field if he runs up to his best form.

He’s one of three horses engaged at the meeting for the dual-code trainer Jones, with Ladyswey and Belafonte also set to take their place at the barriers.

“Ladyswey is in a really tricky grade for her at the moment, it’s almost a bit too hard for her while Belafonte hasn’t had any luck lately, but we might take a different approach over the 2200m this week and see if we can get a better result.”

The Ashburton Racing Club will host a strong 11-race card at the meeting with many of the runners entered looking to have their final public hit out ahead of Cup Week at Riccarton which begins with the first day next Saturday.

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