By Ray Hickson
Taree trainer Wayne Wilkes is growing in confidence his bargain buy mare Shotgun Roulette can qualify for her second successive Country Championships Final at Port Macquarie on Sunday.
The five-year-old mare won her way to Randwick 12 months ago by finishing a close second in the Mid North Coast Qualifier on her home track before finishing ninth in the Final.
Wilkes said a year on the $8000 purchase is following exactly the same path and believes the cards have been dealt in his favour for the $150,000 MNCRA Country Championships Qualifier (1200m).
“She’s been a good horse to me, she’s always shown ability and I have a little bit of a soft spot there for her,’’ Wilkes said.
“She’s a handy horse and the same preparation worked last year so we’ll see if we can go better this year.’’
Shotgun Roulette's first-up effort in the Queen Of The North at Port Macquarie on January 26
Walkes has a strong representation in the Port Macquarie race with Fuel also a confirmed starter plus he trains two of the four emergencies, Gripped and Lucciola Belle, waiting in the wings for a scratching.
It’d be some feat if the two reserves made the field – Shotgun Roulette, Gripped and Lucciola Belle are all out of the same mare, a horse called Six Gauge that Wilkes also trained.
Shotgun Roulette returned from a spell with a fourth placing under 60.5kg in the Queen Of The North at Port Macquarie on January 26 and Wilkes said it showed she’s back in good order.
She won the race a year ago with 53kg prior to heading into the Qualifier and is an $11 chance with TAB Fixed Odds with Wilkes' apprentice Chloe Baker riding.
“The weight held her back, they say weight stops a train, it didn’t help us that day,’’ he said.
“We’ve been there and done it before. I’m confident we’ve got the experience and she is coming together at the right time.
“She is a proven mare and has won in open company so we’re going in reasonably confident.’’
Four runs back from a year’s absence has Fuel in good shape for Sunday’s race though Wilkes said the 1200m may play against him.
The gelding was formerly trained by Danny Williams and hasn’t finished worse than fourth in his four runs since his seachange.
“I would have loved the Qualifier to be over 1400m for him,’’ he said.
“But he is going to be on pace, he’ll race handy, and he will take some catching.’’
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Wilkes is convinced there’s going to be genuine speed on in the Qualifier and Fuel ($15) will likely be part of it. Gripped, should he gain a start, will lead the race according to the trainer.
“It depends on the tactics of horses like Awesome Pluck, whether they want to push forward or go back with him, but Fuel will be in the first three,’’ Wilkes said.
“I have two live chances and possible it could work out to be three or four. Even down to Lucciola Belle, third emergency, if she happens to gain a run she is in with a big chance too.’’
The $500,000 Country Championships Final (1400m) is staged at Royal Randwick, on Day 1 of The Championships, on April 7.