By Ray Hickson
“David versus Goliath”. That’s the task Lismore trainer Daniel Bowen says he faces when he takes on the might of the Matthew Dunn stable in Saturday’s $150,000 Newhaven Park NRRA Country Championships (1400m).
Bowen is playing a lone hand for Lismore as he saddles up lightly raced mare Tectonic Plate to do battle with as many as 10 runners from the Dunn stable but he’s taking a horse in peak form with plenty of local knowledge.
However, not all of the Dunn troupe can qualify for the $1 million Final with the first two across the line earning their place at Randwick on April 6 – and experience tells Bowen you only need one horse.
In 2019, Bowen had just one runner in the NRRA Championships at Grafton in Queen Of Kingston and she ran second, splitting a pair from the Dunn stable, to qualify before finishing a gutsy fourth to Noble Boy in the Final that year.
“At the end of the day if she’s going to be up to the horses of Matt Dunn’s it remains to be seen,’’ Bowen said.
“You can hope but she’s still got to be up them, you’ve got one like Derry Grove who is a 100 rater and that's 25 points above her.
“But she’s a progressive horse, no doubt about that, and hopefully improving again at the right time.
“Conditions don’t matter with her, she goes as well on firm track as she does on a heavy track.”
When Tectonic Plate was a young horse she was fortunate to not be in the stables when Lismore was inundated by flood waters in 2022 and Bowen said the delay to the start of her career that it caused could well have been for the best.
She was purchased for just $11,000 in 2021 but because of the floods she didn’t make her debut until near the end of her three-year-old season back in June last year.
“She was bought at the Inglis sale at Scone, we bought Discretions at the same sale, and she had a prep and then we had the flood,’’ Bowen said.
“Both were out for an extended time but sometimes in hindsight you look at it and go it can be the making of them because they’re allowed to have natural time.
“It was a blessing in disguise. By her being in the paddock it did her a heap of good and it gave them time to mature, both mares aren’t very tall though Tectonic Plate is a bit more solid.
“She’s pretty talented. She didn’t have her first start until a late three year old and she’s won four this preparation.”
Kirk Matheson, who has been on board Tectonic Plate at her past two, won’t be riding on Saturday as the jockey has elected to head to Brisbane to continue an association with Bettcha The Crown leaving Bowen to look for a new rider.
Tectonic Plate has a first and second from two starts on her home track but the only time she attempted 1400m, back in December, she was unplaced as an odds-on favourite at Ballina.
Bowen said the fact she hasn’t ticked that box yet is noteworthy but feels there were excuses and elected not to test her again prior to the Championships.
“That day we did have the blinkers on and she was ridden up near the lead, she pulled very hard so I’m willing to forgive her,’’ he said.
“The jury is out at 1400m but I’m confident she can get it, especially with the blinkers off.”
The Lismore trainer will be well represented at the Country Championships meeting and he said Discretions, the other horse that escaped the floods, is a horse to watch.
Tectonic Plate wins at Grafton on February 6
A last start second at Grafton, the four-year-old has only had five starts and will appreciate a slight step up in trip into the Class 1 Handicap (1100m) on Saturday.
“She goes as well as Tectonic Plate but she’s had a few issues this prep,’’ Bowen said.
“She missed the start first-up, she put her head sideways in the gate and was unlucky, then the other day she came from last to run second.
“As the races increase this prep she’s going to go bang-bang.”