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Luck’s A Fortune For Looker As Activation Tames Coonamble Qualifier

By Ray Hickson

Ben Looker could easily have been sitting at home watching Tuesday’s transferred Newhaven Park WRA Country Championships Qualifier (1400m) at Coonamble but a nudge from his manager got him off the couch and onto Activation’s back.

Jockey Ben Looker and trainer Kody Nestor after Activation's Newhaven Park Country Championships Qualifier win. (Pic: Janian McMillan)

The jockey, who won the 2018 Country Championships Final on Victorem, received a late call up to partner one of trainer Kody Nestor’s trio when the meeting’s transfer clashed with Hawkesbury and Grant Buckley honoured his commitments there.

The rest is history as Looker guided Activation into the $500,000 Newhaven Park Country Championships Final at Randwick on April 3 with a last-to-first victory over Narromine galloper Wild Rocket, who also qualifies, with Activation’s stablemate Jailbreak in third.

“Grant was meant to ride him and with the meeting postponed he could only ride at one place. It left the door open,’’ Looker said on Sky Thoroughbred Central.

“I was 'umming and aahing' about whether to come but Drew (Smith) made the right decision by making me come and I’m very thankful to pick it up.

“He’s a very nice horse going forward, it was a very good win and very strong through the line.”

Activation was last on the fence before the turn and Looker angled him to the centre of the track to make his run. It took a while to wind up but he mowed Jailbreak down with about 30m to go then Looker sat up for the photo.

“There was always going to be good tempo in the race, he didn’t begin that well but Kody said just leave him alone and make one run on him,’’ he said.

“I travelled really strong the whole way and I never felt I was going to get beaten from the 600m.”

Nestor made it back to back wins in the WRA Qualifier at Coonamble, following a quinella in 2020 with Sneak Preview and Fast Talking, and he’s sure Activation can only continue to improve.

The gelding started his career with Chris Waller but he’s been in Nestor’s care, with new owners, for some time and there’s a sense of satisfaction from the Dubbo trainer that he got the job done.

“He and Jailbreak I earmarked quite early,’’ Nestor said.

“He looked very green and new, he’s still like it today, but once the penny drops he flashes home.”

TAB firmed Activation into $15 in the all-in market on the April 3 Final with just Sunday’s Wild Card at Muswellbrook to complete the 16 horse field.

Nestor said the four-year-old is the right sort of horse to be competitive in the Final though he does have a negative racing style that can make his job tougher.

“I’ve tried to get him out of it but that’s just him, that’s his pattern. I’m just hoping they run along at a decent speed,’’ he said.

“I said to Ben just ride him out the back door and get him to the outside and he’s got a really good turn of foot. I definitely think that he will improve going to Randwick.”

Activation wins the Country Championships Qualifier at Coonamble

He said it’s unlikely that Jailbreak will back-up in Sunday’s Wild Card after running third at Coonamble.

Narromine trainer Kylie Kennedy said Wild Rocket will have and easy week or so before preparing for the trip to Randwick.

The mare was just ahead of Activation in the run and while she couldn't match his sprint she lived right up to the trainer's hopes.

"She’s not a mare that puts in a bad one and a good one, she’s always consistent,'' Kennedy said.

Wild Rocket is at $26 with TAB.

All the results and replays for Tuesday's Country Championships meeting at Coonamble

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