Shotgun Roulette and Kopite provided the quinella in last year's Queen Of The North Handicap (1200m) at Port Macquarie but an awkward draw for the latter may rule out a return clash in Friday's $60,000 feature.
The Wayne Wilkes-trained Shotgun Roulette ($5 with TAB fixed odds) last year scored by just over a length from the Adam Duggan-trained Kopite who dead-heated for second with Annatime, prepared by Kim Waugh. Shotgun Roulette, Kopite ($7.50) and a runner from last year Bonne Cheval (12th, $26) are set to again tackle the Benchmark 75 Hcp for fillies and mares which carries first prizemoney of $32,950.
Kopite ran a great race last year, having to concede 4kg to Shotgun Roulette, and her recent form suggests she is going better this year after winning two of her past three starts. This year Shotgun Roulette has to give Kopite 1.5kg. But her Gosford-based trainer Adam Duggan is still undecided about taking his mare to Port Macquarie after she drew awkwardly in barrier 11 in the 14-horse field.
"She ran a great race last year and is probably going even better this year, but that barrier has made it a bit tough for her," said Duggan. "There looks to be a lot of speed inside her and I can see her getting trapped wide.
"If we had to just travel down the road for the race she'd definitely run, but it's a four-hour trip for us to Port Macquarie. I'll have a chat with the owners and see what they think, but we may scratch her and save her for a suitable fillies and mares race at Canterbury next week."
Taree trainer Wayne Wilkes and his apprentice Chloe Baker are looking for a repeat performance from first-up specialist Shotgun Roulette in the Queen Of The North. The five-year-old mare is a brilliant first-up performer - winning four of her five previous starts when resuming.
Shotgun Roulette won last year's Queen Of The North first-up from a three-month spell, carrying 53kg after Baker's claim. On Friday she rises to 60.5kg after the allowance. Shotgun Roulette on Friday is resuming from a five-month and has geared up for her return with two barrier trials, the most recent over 1006m at Port Macquarie on January 12 when she looked to have plenty in reserve when third to Laurentian and Single And Free.
A five-year-old daughter of Casino Prince, Shotgun Roulette has compiled a very handy record for Wilkes, who purchased her for $8000 as a two-year-old from a Nathan Tinkler dispersal sale. The mare has won four of her 18 starts for prizemoney earnings of just under $150,000.
The Queen Of The North was introduced by the Port Macquarie Race Club in 2005 when the original prizemoney was $30,000. The inaugural winner was Paper Blonde, trained at Taree by Bob Milligan, who has Valbeata ($11) and Magic Arli ($101) lining up in this year's event. First emergency Magic Arli has secured a start via the early scratching of the Brett Cavanough-trained Leica's Lass.