By Doug Ryan
Local trainer Ross Stitt and Sydney jockey Andrew Adkins could continue their exploits with mare But I Know in the $150,000 Mid North Coast Racing Association Country Championships Qualifier for Manning Valley Race Club’s TAB Showcase meeting at Taree on Sunday.
They have combined to win two and been runner-up once in the $75,000 Highway races in Sydney and the $45,000 purchase, by So You Think, is suited by Sunday’s 1400m race.
The winner and runner-up qualify for the $500,000 Newhaven Park Stud Country Championships Final over 1400m at Royal Randwick on April 4. In a field with many hopes, the mare’s light weight, good form in only nine starts and ability on wet tracks are in her favour.
But I Know ($16 on TAB fixed odds) won over 1500m at Rosehill and 1800m at Randwick in September and October last year and Stitt had no hesitation in spelling the mare with the Championships in mind.
Being fresh after being in work 11 weeks should have her ready to run a solid 1400m, whereas many of her rivals are suspect not only at 1400m but in the heavy going which she relishes.
Stitt said her dam Pendolin (NZ), by Pentire, was from a good family that excelled in heavy ground, the likelihood of the track on Sunday.
“I have no worries about her doing well first-up from a spell ... she looks a treat,” he said.
Adkins has ridden But I Know for the two wins and a second in Highways and in all of her past four starts in Sydney, the last one resulting in a 3.1 length fifth behind Ready For Danger in a $125,000 Country class race over 2000m at Rosehill in early November.
“I think a lot of people think she is the forgotten horse,” Stitt said.
He spoke so highly of the former Port Macquarie top apprentice that he has engaged him for Fair Dinkum ($9) in the Manning Freight Distribution Benchmark 66 Handicap over 1000m and Oh So Hot ($9) in the Accounting Services/The Smith Family Showcase Class 2 Handicap over 1300m, both great chances.
Port Macquarie four-year-old gelding Gumshoe ($5 favourite), trained by Marc Quinn, is another with good Highway and provincial form.
Quinn was looking forward to topping off Gumshoe’s readiness for the Qualifier in the barrier trials or races which were abandoned but had the foresight to also accept with the gelding for a race at Gosford last Monday.
Another former top Port apprentice jockey, Cejay Graham, now stationed in Sydney, had no hesitation in taking Gumshoe to the front and she led all the way for a convincing win in soft 5 going over 1200m. Gumshoe won a Highway in June at Randwick and was second in another one at Rosehill in early November, both being over 1200m.
In another Rosehill Highway in heavy ground over 1400m in July, the gelding raced handy and was a 4.4 lengths 8th to My Blue Jeans, so should handle the going and distance of the Qualifier. Quinn believes Gumshoe is stronger now and doesn’t have to be a leader to run well.
Another Port trainer, Jenny Graham, knows what it takes to win the MNCRA Qualifier, having won it with Victorem two years ago, the runner-up being her Awesome Pluck on that occasion which last year was third to Lucciola Belle over 1200m in the Qualifier. Awesome Pluck has been withdrawn from Sunday's race after drawing barrier 18.
Wauchope owner Dale Miller has four-year-old gelding Foxy’s Foxinator ($11), trained by Graham, in the race. Foxy’s Foxinator, to be ridden by Ben Looker, The Drake ($7.50) and Magnalane ($19) are prepared by Graham but she couldn’t name her best chance, and said she was happy with the way they have progressed.
Magnalane, winner of its past two races at Taree before a let-up, was trained in the provincials but the owners sent it to Graham with this race in mind, top jockey Samantha Clenton taking the mount.
The Drake, to be ridden by Wauchope’s Belinda Hodder, has won two of its past three starts, its latest by nearly 1.5 lengths at Coffs Harbour on January 12.
The best of Taree trainer Wayne Wilkes starters could be four-year-old gelding Dulette ($7), to be ridden by newlywed Andrew Gibbons, the horse having won a Highway at Rosehill in heavy ground at Rosehill in June.
The galloper was fifth in another Highway (beaten 1.5 lengths) over 1400m in heavy ground at Rosehill in July before being spelled. Since then the horse was third in a trial and then fourth to Assault ‘n’battery in a Randwick Highway over 1200m on January 11.
Gibbons rode Dulette in the Randwick race and was impressed with its gears and application to duty, reckoning it to be improved next start, after knocking back other rides in this race.
The chances don’t end there as the race in heavy ground (currently a Heavy 8) could toss up an outsider, although all runners deserve to be striving for the big money having earned the chance with good wins and runs in the lead-up.
DOUG RYAN'S EACH-WAY SELECTIONS
RACE 5: FAIR DINKUM ($9)
RACE 6: MISS FOX ($2.10)
RACE 7: BUT I KNOW ($16)