By Rod Fuller
With the Mid North Coast Racing Association Country Championships Preview highlighting a wonderful day of racing to be conducted at Port Macquarie this Friday, Victorem looks set to provide the testing material as the journey to Royal Randwick begins.
Locally-trained by popular mentor Jenny Graham, the I Am Invincible gelding looks to be a star on the rise after being sent out favourite and accounting for a quality field at Randwick in Highway company last December.
Possessing a record of four starts for three wins and following a solid barrier trial success at his home track, Victorem looks to be the horse to beat as the excitement heats up for the district final followed by the $500,000 Country Championships climax at Royal Randwick over 1400 metres on Saturday 7th April.
Victorem will be greatly assisted by the engagement of riding immortal, Robert Thompson, with strong opposition provided by horses such as Clevanicc and Aristograts.
From the strong stable of Kris Lees, the Nicconi gelding Clevanicc was a sound Scone winner over 1400m in October and will benefit by a recent trial performance at Wyong in preparation for the preview outing.
Invariably, Benjamin Smith journeys to the Port track with success and has entered the Congrats gelding Aristograts for an eventual crack at the Country Championships. With a Taree win in December followed by placings at his following three engagements, Aristograts promoted his chances with an encouraging third on the Newcastle Beaumont Track a couple of weeks ago.
The interesting runner from the Wayne Wilkes stable is Lucciola Bell, who was scratched from the sixth race to fulfil the engagement in the Championships Preview. The stable has a high opinion of the Casino Prince mare who has the benefit of a fourth on the track upon resuming from a break.
A safe wager on the card looks to be Shelley Beach Road in the sixth event with the Shellscape mare looking hard to beat following a Grafton win in November and an encouraging placing at Rosehill in Class 2 Highway company prior to Christmas.
The most interesting runner on the program is Princess Wildfire from the Morgan Butler stable, who is debuting in the Maiden Plate over the sprint course. The Sepoy mare has started in six well-placed trials at town in preparation for the debut run this Friday and markets look to be the best guide, with the horse also entered in maiden company at Ballina on Monday.
The day provides the commencement of an exciting period for country racing around the state with the heats of the Country Championships providing a series of seven qualifying races, each held at a club representing one racing region in NSW. Each race will be worth $150,000 in prizemoney, and will be contested by eligible horses that must be under the care of a country trainer in that region.
Port Macquarie Race Club is honoured to be hosting the Mid North Coast qualifier on Sunday 18th February with neighbouring heats to be conducted at Grafton on Sunday 11th March and Scone a week later.
Leading broadcaster, Ray Hadley, will be conducting his top rating morning program live at the various tracks around the states and will be broadcasting at Port Macquarie in the lead up to the MNCRA Country Championship heat. The club would like to acknowledge the support of sponsors, Stowe, De Bortoli Wines, Prime 7, Schweppes, McGuigan BMW, and Carlton Draught for such a prestigious meeting.
With all the excellent facilities and catering arrangements in place, the stage is set for a spectacular day of racing action as a springboard for the journey to the Championships at Randwick in April. The racing action commences at 1:40pm with the last on the eight-event card set down for 5:50pm.
RACE 1 (Stowe Australia Maiden Hcp, 1110m): 2 Scorching, 6 The Eulo Queen, 4 All Too Soft
Race 2 (De Bortoli Wines BM 61 Hcp, 1512m): 3 Commandatore, 4 Forever Alone, 2 Zuccherina
Race 3 (Prime 7 Local News Maiden Plate, 1010m): 4 Princess Wildfire, 6 Ms Wicked Nicci, 2 Ted’s Dream
Race 4 (Schweppes Maiden Hcp, 1512m): 1 Pentridge, 8 Mon Cheri, 3 Shangato
Race 5 (McGuigan BMW 3YO & Up Class 1 & Maiden Plate, 2020m): 2 Jayzou, 8 Bloom in Spring, 9 Lights of Como
Race 6 (Carlton Draught BM55 Hcp, 1210m): 1 Shelley Beach Road, 4 Single Image, 3 Budawang
Race 7 (MNCRA Championships Preview CL4 Hcp, 1210m): 2 Victorem, 4 Clevanicc, 3 Aristograts
Race 8 (Championships Qualifier-Sunday 18th February BM68 Hcp, 1010m): 2 Duck in Dubai, 3 Lawman, 9 Kelsha Begs