Trainer Jenny Graham expects to be a wiser woman after her two Country Championships candidates She's Invincible and Portatorio tackle a talented field at Port Macquarie on Saturday.
The locally-based Graham is aiming her two gallopers at the $150,000 Mid North Coast qualifying heat of the rich Country Championships at Taree on February 26. The Taree leg is one of eight regional qualifiers leading in to the $400,000 Country Championships Final at Royal Randwick on day one of The Championships on April 1.
Portatorio and She's Invincible will gear up for their Country Championships campaign at Port Macquarie on Saturday when they line up in the McGuigan BMW Country Championships Preview Class 4 Hcp over 1208m.
Portatorio tackles the race first-up after returning from a serious health scare while She's Invincible is coming off a strong first-up win over 1106m at Port Macquarie on January 23. They will clash with several other likely Country Championships contenders, including the highly-promising Marc Quinn-trained Cogliere and the Cliff Bashford-trained Ever So Natural.
Last-start Randwick winner Cogliere was competitive with the likes of quality filly Foxplay as a two-year-old last season and is one of the most promising country-trained gallopers in NSW. Ever So Natural finished second in last year's Country Championships qualifier at Taree before running third in the Country Championships Final at Randwick behind Clearly Innocent and Pera Pera.
"It is certainly a very tough race on Saturday with the likes of Cogliere and a few others in the race, so I should get a pretty good guide on where my two are at from a Country Championships point of view," said Graham.
Graham is delighted with the way She's Invincible has returned to racing after being disappointed with her first preparation under her care last year. Formerly with Sydney trainer Ron Quinton, She's Invincible didn't do a great deal in her first seven runs for Graham, although she did manage to finish second at Randwick in July.
"I was very disappointed with her last prep, but she's come back really well this time," said Graham. "I thought the 1100m first-up may have been a tad short for her but she won well and hopefully it's onwards and upwards with her from here."
Portatorio, winner of three of his seven starts, is resuming since last June and Graham revealed she is lucky to still have him in the stable.
"He had a back injury and a fetlock infection last year and he very nearly died," she said. "I'm not sure how he'll come back but I'm certainly happy with his work coming into Saturday's race. I think both of mine should race well, but She's Invincible has the fitness edge so I'd have to have to rate her as my better chance on Saturday."
Ben Looker, who won first-up on She's Invincible last month, retains the ride on Saturday while Matthew McGuren partners Portatorio.
Marc Quinn has booked 3kg-claiming apprentice Chloe Baker for Cogliere while fellow 3kg-claimer Chelsea Ings rides Cliff Bashford's runner Ever So Natural, who was allotted topweight of 64.5kg. The rail for Saturday's seven-race program will be out 4m for the entire circuit.