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Port Macquarie Trainers In Battle For Country Championships

By Doug Ryan

Two Port Macquarie trainers will continue the battle to have a runner in the $150,000 Mid North Coast Racing Association Qualifier for the $500,000 Country Championships Final at the TAB meeting at Taree on Monday.

They are Tas Morton with three-year-old geldings Bowie’s Gift and Mister Smartee and Tom Higgins with four-year-old gelding Budawang. All three have accepted for the Weddings At The Winning Post Function Centre Benchmark 55 Handicap over 1250m and the Gloucester Cup on February 26 Class 2 Handicap over 1300m.

The gallopers would probably have to win their respective races at Manning Valley Race Club’s seven-race card to be a slim chance of competing in the 1200m qualifier at Port Macquarie Racecourse on Sunday, February 18.

The heat is part of a “Showcase” TAB meeting, three of the races being for country horses solely, at the $370,000 prizemoney meeting. Both trainers said their charges would be nominated for the Qualifier with the first two placegetters securing a start in the final at Royal Randwick on April 7.

Morton’s two gallopers only have one win each whereas Budawang has two wins, both of them at Port, as they try to boost those wins on Monday to sneak into the qualifying heat. All three gallopers were nominated for two races on Monday to try and find the easiest chance of victory.

Higgins is probably the most favoured as apart from the two wins at Port, Budawang was a fast-finishing fourth, beaten a half-length, behind another galloper bound for the qualifier in Shelley Beach Road at Port last Friday. He said that top Port jockey Peter Graham, having his first ride on the gelding, was impressed with the run and he again takes the mount.

“My horse backs up quickly and the work doesn’t worry him,” Higgins said. “His work on Tuesday was brilliant and he does love the Port track. If he did happen to qualify for the final, he is much better suited by its 1400m.”

Morton was given Bowie and Mister Smarteee for nothing by breeder Andrew Bowcock and they race the two in partnership. Bowie had hairline fractures in the legs as a yearling but when x-rayed as a two-year-old they had healed.

Morton was so impressed with the “dumb but with plenty of ability” gelding that he took it to Canterbury for a race, despite it being a maiden, where it finished 2.9 lengths behind Wooshka over 1250m on December 20. At Port last Friday, Bowie was always in the leading division to score by nearly two lengths over 1110m. “It was short of its best but still won,” Morton said.

As for Mister Smartee, it was a $160,000 Magic Millions offer which failed a vet’s test. It was well supported from $6 to $2.90 and won easily in a $40,000 “Showcase” maiden at Port on November 16. The gelding was beaten over five lengths when fourth behind Ferniehurst over 1210m at Port last Friday but was having its first run from a let-up.

“He will improve as he has only been in light work. He is down in class and will be much fitter,” Morton said.

All three gallopers will know they have been in a race as they are up against some very handy provincial gallopers. One of them in race 7 is High Rush, trained at Newcastle by in-form Jason Deamer, which landed a good plunge when winning at its first start at Taree on January 3.

Another in the same race is consistent Taree gelding Syrah, trained by Ross Stitt after he paid $17,000 for it for his wife, to be ridden by Robert Thompson. It has had two wins from 13 starts and was a good fifth to Zuccharina at Coffs Harbour on January 14 when ridden by apprentice Chloe Baker.

RACE 1: Exellas 1, Allez Rev 2, Brooke 3.
RACE 2: Prontissimo 1, Keeva 2, Master Of The Turf 3.
RACE 3: Budawang 1, Bowie’s Gift 2, Waimea Bay 3.
RACE 4: Merriwa 1, Billabong Cindy 2, Go Joyce Go.
RACE 5: La Biere Choisie 1, I Am The Fox 2, Prince High 3.
RACE 6: High Flight 1, Subtle Senorita 2, Dubtle Grey 3.
RACE 7: High Rush 1, Budawang 2, Syrah 3.

View the final fields with full form & race replays for Taree here

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