By Julieanne Horsman
A mix of tight finishes and absolute demolition jobs during the Country Championships regional qualifiers has set the scene for a thrilling final at Royal Randwick.
There’s been no scratchings since WRRA runner-up La La Loopsy was forced to withdraw with a leg injury, allowing Not For Export to step up into the field.
Perfect Dare has been the clear favourite since his dominant win in the Northern Rivers Racing Association heat at Grafton and is currently $3.30 on TAB Fixed Odds. Pumpkin Pie is the next best at $4.80.
There’s also been a lot of support for sentimental favourite, Stoneyrise, who travelled more than 1000kms from Hungerford, north-west of Bourke, to compete. He opened at $26 and is now $18.
Here’s what the trainers had to say about their horses on the eve of the big race.
Distinctive Look “He is jumping out of his skin and is ready to race. We had to slow down a bit when there was a lot of rain at home but it was cleared we got back into it and he bounced back.” – David Smith
Lautaro “He pulled up really well after his win on 19th. If we have a heavy track tomorrow, he is a good each way chance. I think he will run a nice race regardless and I am just so happy to be involved in the Country Championships. It’s my biggest achievement as a trainer.” – Andrew Dale
Perfect Dare “He’s had one barrier trial and a jump out both over 1000m since the qualifier. He’s had a long preparation so I didn’t want to race him again. His fitness is good. He travelled down last Sunday and has a nice gallop on Wednesday and I am looking forward to seeing him race tomorrow.” - Matthew Dunn
Cogliere “He’s 100%. I don’t think I can get him any better. The wetness of the track is my only query.” – Marc Quinn
Galaxy Warrior “I am confident he will be competitive tomorrow. He’s at a better stage now than in his last prep when he was racing in town.” – Gayna Williams
Caerless Choice “He is better on top of the ground and we won’t get that tomorrow but he is fit, will try hard and is there with every chance.” – Paul Messara
After All That “He pulled up really well and I am very happy with him. He went to Sydney on Thursday and has eaten well since arriving. I’m taking him for a pick of grass this and a walk this arvo. If the track gets to slow it will be better for us.” – Rodney Northam
Pelerin “He is going into the race a definite top 5 chance. I think the track will dry out enough for the favourites but if it were bottomless it would work in my favour. I feel Caerless Choice is the one to beat.” – Cody Morgan
Steel Frost “He looks fantastic and I was extremely happy with the trial I gave him at home on Monday. I’m hoping for a soft track. I don’t want any more rain.” – Anne-Marie Ruttley
Nic’s Vendatta “I trialled him last week on a heavy track and I was happy with his run. I think he has a genuine chance tomorrow. The form around him is strong and I expect him to go well.” – Todd Howlett
Stoneyrise “He ate up this morning and had a bit of a walk around the farm where we are staying. He has settled in her better than expecting considering the distance he has had to travel and the unfamiliar surroundings.” – James Hatch
Forever Newyork “We sent him into the race at Albury a bit underdone and he’s improved out of sight for the run. We travelled to Rosehill early and worked him this morning. He’s never run in the wet so that’s the big question mark but I expect him to run a bold race.” – Gary Colvin
Free Standing “He’s good. He has travelled well, has eaten up and is ready for the challenge. He handles all tracks so we don’t mind if it’s heavy.” – Cathleen Rode
Not For Export “He is going good and has done one everything right since racing at Scone. He has eaten up and travelled well. We’re an outside chance but you can’t win it if you’re not in it.” – Dar Lunn
Pumpkin Pie “I couldn’t be happier with. She has had a faultless preparation leading into tomorrow. Ideally the sun will come out and dry out the track a bit. I think the mare is handing it all better than her owner and trainer.” – Danny Williams
Shotgun Roulette “I’m very happy with her, she is well and 100% fit. I’m confident of a good run.” – Wayne Wilkes