By Ray Hickson
Portatorio has earned himself a place in Jenny Graham’s growing team of horses aimed at next month’s Country Championships Qualifier on her home track at Port Macquarie.
The five-year-old’s win at Taree on Tuesday broke a two year absence from the winner’s stall and convinced Graham he should join her promising three-year-olds Awesome Pluck and Victorem in the Championships series.
Portatorio was highly rated by Graham as a younger horse, winning three of his first five starts, and as he’s now had 19 starts for four wins he’s still eligible for the Country Championship series.
“It was lovely, he’s a been a work in progress but it came together nicely on Tuesday,’’ Graham said.
“The owners are very fond of the horse, he’s had issue after issue and it hasn’t been easy. It was nice to get that win for the connections.
“He’s getting close to the borderline so we thought we’d have another crack at it.’’
Watch Portatorio's easy win at Taree on Tuesday
Last year Portatorio finished midfield in the MNCRA Country Championship Qualifier held at Taree second-up from a spell.
Graham said she’ll consider running the gelding in the Championship Preview (1200m) on February 2 prior to the $150,000 Qualifier 16 days later.
“To be fair it was probably a little rushed last year,’’ she said.
“He had a few issues and wasn’t able to prepare as I would have liked. It’s nice to have the advantage on your home track this year.’’
Graham is going back to basics with smart three-year-old Awesome Pluck, who has been beaten favourite in his last two starts at Randwick.
The gelding will race at Port Macquarie on February 2, possibly in a 1000m Benchmark 65 event.
And Victorem, an impressive Highway winner first-up in mid-December, is recovering from an infection that forced his scratching from a race on Gosford Cup Day and could contest the Championship Preview alongside Portatorio.
“Awesome Pluck runs in a short race to get his racing manners under control,’’ she said.
“I haven’t decided whether Victorem has another run (before the Qualifier) but provided everything goes okay they will go into the Championships as well.
“They are both nice horses, hopefully things can come together for them.’’
The first two horses home in the Port Macquarie Qualifier earn a place in the $500,000 Country Championships Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick on April 7.