By Julieanne Horsman
Pelerin and After All That have snapped up the last two places in the $400,000 Country Championships Final in a thrilling finish to the Wild Card Qualifier.
It was transferred to Scone when original host track Muswellbrook was deemed too wet.
Jumping from barrier 14, Pelerin went straight to the back and was the widest horse at the turn for home. But under the guidance of experienced jockey Grant Buckley, he flew home down the outside to pinch victory by a head from After All That (Robert Thompson.)
“It was a great race and Pelerin was very strong late,” Buckley said. “The horse will definitely improve on the run as well.”
Tamworth-based trainer, Cody Morgan, was full of praise for his winning jockey.
“It was a brilliant ride,” he said. “I didn’t have a jockey yesterday but thankfully Grant agreed and it worked out really well.”
It’s the first time the former jockey turned young gun trainer has qualified a horse for the Country Championships final.
“It’s so exciting,” Morgan said. “I can’t wait to get to Randwick next Saturday.”
“The Country Championships is a wonderful initiative and without this series trainers like me and other smaller trainers in the bush would never have the opportunity to go to Sydney on Doncaster Day.”
“I’m going to wrap the horse in cotton wool between now and then,” he joked.
The fact runner-up After All That is even racing is a feat in itself. The now five-year-old gelding only made his debut as a four-year-old after breaking his hip twice as a juvenile.
Scone-based trainer and owner, Rodney Northam, never gave up on him though and after a close fourth in the HNWRA heat a couple of weeks ago, After All That returned the favour with a hard fought second.
“I am really happy with the run especially since he was wide facing the breeze and had to make a run a bit early,” Northam said. “Robert (jockey) thought he was going to be pushed right off the track so he moved a bit early, hit the front a long way from home and was only collared right on the line.”
“I’m really happy for Cody Morgan. As an apprentice he rode some winners for me and if I’m going to get beaten by anyone I’m glad it’s him.”
Long time friends, Rodney and Robert, will take their partnership to the final at Royal Randwick.
“Robert has done a lot of work on the horse and I wouldn’t want anyone else on in the final,” Northam said.
“We won’t do much with the horse now. We might use him for a bit of stock work because he’d rather do that than run circles on the track. We just need to keep him happy.”
In a heartbreaking result, favourite All Summer Long finished third for the second time, crushing Greg Bennnett’s hopes of defending his title. The highly respected trainer, who won the 2016 Country Championships Final with Clearly Innocent, will hand in his license next Sunday to take up a new position with prominent Queensland breeding operation, Aquis Farm.
“Obviously I am a tad disappointed,” Bennett said. “Invienna hit a wet patch and that spelled the end of her. All Summer Long was brave but couldn’t get a run when he needed it in the straight. Sassaby ran a brave race too but he’s looking for further, he’s a miler for sure.”
“I’m happy for Rod and Cody who made it through to the finals. It’ll be a great day for them and I wish them all the best.”
Pelerin and After All That are equal fifth in the betting order for the Country Championships Final at Royal Randwick at $15 with the TAB. Grafton winner Perfect Dare retains favouritism at $3.80, followed by Pumpkin Pie at $4.60, Caerless Choice at $8 and Cogliere at $11.