By Frances O'Shea
Three of the leading contenders for the Polytrack Provincial Championships Final line up in Wyong’s $150,000 Qualifier on Saturday. The series kicks off with a very strong heat and a full field of 16 runners plus three emergencies.
The Kris Lees-trained Just Dreaming, Kristen Buchanan’s Echo Effect and Manhattan Mist from the Kim Waugh stable have been rated in the top five selections for the $500,000 Final at Royal Randwick on April 14. Only two other prospective Championship runners, Sugar Bella and Sasso Corbara, both from the Lees stable, are rated above the trio.
Now in its fourth year, Wyong trainers are yet to taste success in the lucrative series but are hoping they can buck the trend in 2018.
Kristen Buchanan’s Echo Effect, $4.60 second favourite in early betting, has drawn well in seven and will be ridden by apprentice Blaike McDougall.
The gelding, who was placed twice in Group races at the Melbourne Spring Carnival, resumed with a fifth at Warwick Farm on February 10, before a dominant six-length trial win at Hawkesbury 10 days later.
Manhattan Mist from the Waugh stable, the $8 third favourite, didn’t fare as well at the barriers, drawing 13. Shooting for his third successive win, Waugh has opted for leading provincial rider Jeff Penza, to partner the Manhattan Rain gelding.
Allan Denham has the only other Wyong-based runner, hoping to break through with Happy Go Plucky, who is coming off three seconds. The four-year-old has drawn barrier nine.
Kris Lees, who took out the inaugural Provincial Championships in 2015 with Danish Twist, has accepted with four runners but wide barriers for several have left him undecided.
Kool Vinnie has drawn 15 and Japanese import Hallelujah Boy 17. Lees will make a decision on their fate closer to the race.
The $3.60 early favourite Just Dreaming, who was beaten just over a length when finishing fifth in the Group 3 Triscay Stakes at Randwick on February 17, has drawn 10, while China Horse Club gelding Nationality, will start from barrier two.
Fellow Novocastrian galloper Flying Rose, from the Paul Perry stable, has drawn four and will be ridden by Josh Adams. The promising Stratum mare has a win and three seconds from just four starts.
Brad Widdup’s progressive mare Witches, will get a nice run from barrier three, with Robert Thompson in the saddle. The Qualifier will be run at 5.55pm, the last on a strong eight-race program.
The 2YO Maiden Plate has also attracted a full field with emergencies, with many of the leading Sydney trainers represented. Colourful jockey Noel Callow, who recently relocated from Melbourne to Sydney, will make his first appearance at Wyong. Racing gets underway at 1.24pm.
Race 1 – 1.24pm: JOB CENTRE AUSTRALIA MAIDEN PLATE (1300m): 1 NAI’A, 2 Image Neat, 3 Sunday Session, 4 Pretentious Man.
Race 2 – 1.59pm: LAKES PODIATRY BENCHMARK 71 HANDICAP (2100m): 1 FURORE, 2 Follow On, 3 Resort, 4 Chilli Beauty.
Race 3 – 2.34pm: SERVERS AUSTRALIA 2YO MAIDEN PLATE (1000m): 1 LET ME SLEEP ON IT, 2 Sanglier, 3 Military Zone, 4 Rufio.
Race 4 – 3.14pm: MITSUBISHI HEAVY INDUSTRIES AIR CONDITIONING AUSTRALIA MAIDEN HANDICAP (1100m): 1 CARILLON, 2 Clifton County, 3 All Accomplished, 4 Crystal Queen.
Race 5 – 3.54pm: VIETNAM VETERANS KEITH PAYNE VC HOSTEL LTD CLASS 2 HANDICAP (1600m): 1 HIGH POWER, 2 Chilly Cha Cha, 3 Mulu Magic, 4 Hunter Caulfield.
Race 6 – 4.35pm: LAKE MACQUARIE SHEET METAL CLASS 1 HANDICAP (1100m): 1 FLOKI, 2 Newsfan, 3 Persia, 4 Second Island.
Race 7 – 5.15pm: HAIER BENCHMARK 66 HANDICAP (1000m): 1 SHUDABEEN, 2 Never Out, 3 Bella Vella, 4 Lakota.
Race 8 – 5.55pm: POLYTRACK PROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIPS QUALIFIER (1350m): 1 MANHATTAN MIST, 2 Echo Effect, 5 Just Dreaming, 4 Witches