By Mark Brassel
Glen Innes trainer Paddy Cunningham will have his first ever runner in the Country Championships at Scone on Sunday.
The likeable Cunningham will be travelling nearly eight hours return trip with his charge Carry on Jake who is entered for the $150,000 *H&NWRA Country Championships Qualifier (1400m).
“I did have Hula Girl entered for a Country Championships race previously but she was an emergency and didn’t get a run,” Cunningham said. “I’m hoping this bloke gets into the field.”
Left: Carry on Jake (Jackson Murphy) returns after winning at Armidale. The horse is entered for Sunday's Country Championships Qualifier at Scone. Image by - Bradley Photographers
Cunningham has had Carry on Jake for 13 starts after the galloper did his early racing in Queensland, but has done well with the five-year-old winning three races and being placed twice.
The gelding won two races at Armidale (1900m) during November, the latter by a widening eight lengths after leading the entire journey. Carry on Jake then led but was grabbed late when third (half a length) to Jimmy Hoffa at Grafton (2200m).
Cunningham has had this race in mind since, giving him an 11-week break before starting Carry on Jake at Grafton in a much shorter 1100m race on February 20.
“We bought him to try and win the Guyra Cup (run at Armidale this Saturday) but then realised he was still eligible for the Country Championships, so we thought we’d have a crack at it with $120,000 more prizemoney.
“He was a funny horse when we first got him but as we increased his distances the better he became. He has now got more confidence and has turned into a pretty fair galloper. He blitzed them when he won at Armidale that day.”
Carry on Jake was well back and wide yet caught the eye when he came from last for fourth (beaten a length) to Rothbury starting a $26 chance.
“He has improved since that run and no doubt the step up to 1400m will also be up his alley.”
Tamworth trainer Lesley Jeffriess will rely on Lonely Orphan in the Qualifier. The mare raced with distinction in three city runs at Rosehill Gardens between October and December.
A winner of four races from 17 starts, Lonely Orphan has not been seen since finishing a close second at Armidale (1900m) on December 19. Scone Race Club was delighted to receive 28 nominations for the Country Championships Qualifier.
*H&NWRA: Hunter & North West Racing Association