By Ray Hickson
Trainer Cameron Crockett has been doing his homework on trends in Country Championships races to give his three hopes in Sunday’s feature at Mudgee their best chance of a top two finish.
Ori On Fire, Prince Of Thebes and Turcotte represent the local trainer in the $150,000 Central Districts Qualifier (1400m) and he believes all three have had perfect build ups going on what he’s observed.
“I have noticed a bit of a pattern in these qualifiers,’’ he said.
“There’s always are a couple that are first-up, a few that can't run the distance but are running in the races because they are what they are.
“Because of that I'm happy drawing out a bit where they can stay out of trouble. Last year I had a couple of horses compound in front of me with Jar Of Hearts at Wellington and it cost her the race. Sometimes it's not necessarily a bad thing.’’
Crockett’s last start Bathurst winner Ori On Fire is the third favourite with TAB at $6.50 behind the Mack Griffith pair of Most Exalted ($2.40) and Schedule ($4.20).
Ahead of the first Country Championships Qualifier @MudgeeRaceClub, @GMiddletonTAB visits the stables of central districts trainer @Crockett_Cam to find out how racing has always been in his blood and what it would mean for him to have a runner at #TheChampionships @racing_nsw pic.twitter.com/8aJquDDAFE
— Sky Racing (@SkyRacingAU) February 21, 2018
He concedes the Griffith pair have class on their side but is adamant his horses won’t lack for anything in the fitness stakes.
"My horses have had an ideal preparation, Prince Of Thebes will be fifth-up, Turcotte arguably should have won last start and will be third-up,’’ Crockett said.
"Ori On Fire's preparation has been faultless. I'm quietly confident all three will run very well.
"I'm not worrying about other horses, just my three, and getting them to turn up on the day sound and happy.
"Mack's horses are placed ideally in the set weights conditions. They are the class horses in the field but are going 1400m first-up so they aren't without question marks.’’
Crockett’s jockey bookings are interesting – he’s found Noel Callow to ride Prince Of Thebes, Christian Reith partners Ori On Fire and Mathew Cahill is back on board Turcotte.
The trainer blames himself a bit for Turcotte’s two defeats this time in and the addition of Cahill, plus blinkers, should be seen as positives to a horse Crockett has always thought was his leading Championships hope.
“Mathew has a bit of an opinion of Turcotte. I left it a bit too late to book him for his previous starts,’’ he said.
Ori On Fire wins impressively at Bathurst on February 11.
“He'd done pretty much all of the work on the horse since he came to me but that was a mistake of mine. Whether the blinkers will work, your guess is as good as mine but we had to try something.
“Ideally we would have liked to see him race in them at 1400m, any time he's under pressure when he is two or three pairs back he throws the race away. If he runs straight he’ll be very hard to beat.’’
Ori On Fire proved he wasn’t just a speedy front-runner with his impressive Bathurst win and Crockett said Reith, if he finds cover, will suit the horse’s style.
“He can put the other horses under pressure from an inside draw but from an outside draw I'm not concerned one bit,’’ he said.
While with Prince Of Thebes, kept fresh since a win at Orange a month ago, Crockett feels he won’t need to give too many instructions to Callow.
“You can't go wrong with a jockey like that, he's a great rider,’’ he said.
First and second from the Mudgee feature earn their place in the $500,000 Country Championships Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick on April 7.