By Ray Hickson
He may have the best horse in the race but it’ll still be a big training effort from Mack Griffth if Most Exalted can win Sunday’s CDRA Country Championships Qualifier (1400m) at Mudgee.
Griffith has done plenty of treading water with the smart five-year-old since his last start win at Rosehill back in July.
That’s because it was Most Exalted’s 20th race start and one more would have made him ineligible to contest the $150,000 Qualifier.
“We had to put him in the paddock for a while but he's had a couple of small preparations so he hasn’t been sitting out there doing nothing,’’ Griffith said.
“We have tried to keep his fitness up. He’s a legitimate Saturday class horse coming back to a restricted country race so he is very well in.’’
If anyone knows what it takes to prepare a horse for the Country Championships series it’s Griffith, he’s won two of three Central Districts heats since the concept was born in 2015.
Watch Most Exalted close off his trial at Rosehill on February 5
The local trainer won the inaugural heat with Binalong Road, who didn’t contest the Final, then in 2016 Pera Pera won the Central Districts Qualifier before running second to Clearly Innocent at Randwick.
Most Exalted will carry 57.5kg and it’s the weight that Griffith said can give well performed horses like him an edge.
He’s confident both Most Exalted, and stablemate Schedule who will carry the same weight, fit the bill as ideal contenders.
“The previous times we’ve won it have been with horses that are so well weighted,’’ he said.
“They’re racing against horses they should be giving 8-10kg and meeting them on level weights.’’
In TAB's All-In Country Championships market, Most Exalted is $26 while Schedule has been marked a $51 chance behind Don't Give A Damn ($2.90).
As pre-training manager for Gooree for the past four years, Griffith has had plenty to do with Most Exalted through his life and was given the horse to train when James Cummings made the move to Godolphin.
And he was an instant success, winning first-up at Kembla Grange before a win on protest in a Benchmark 85 at Rosehill on July 27.
“I’ve had a bit to do with him since he was a yearling,’’ he said.
“I’ve always liked the horse, we’ve worked out a few things with him and he’s relishing the shorter courses.
“He’s got the form on the board, he’s won in Sydney on a Saturday. The other horse has a few quirks but his form reads very well too.’’
The six-year-old has been a regular presence in Highway races and has a second behind Don’t Give A Damn, in the Anniversary Highway Consolation, on Everest Day to his name.
“He had a few starts last prep so we had to give him a small break but he goes well fresh,’’ he said.
“His last two have been in Country Cups, both times we’ve won the race it has been with open company horses so it looks like it is all falling into place.’’
Both Schedule and Most Exalted have had road trips to Sydney for barrier trials this month and Griffith is confident they’re as ready as he can get them.
Aaron Bullock will ride Most Exalted while Blaike McDougall continues his association with Schedule.
“They are both first-up so you don’t really know until they get there,’’ he said.
“Both the trials have been good, they went to Rosehill a fortnight ago, and I think they are very close to the mark.’’
First and second from the Mudgee feature will earn places in the $500,000 Country Championships Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick on April 7.