The Matt Dunn stable may appear to have a stranglehold on Sunday's $150,000 NRRA Country Championships Qualifier (1400m) at Grafton, but veteran Coffs Harbour trainer Jim Jarvis is hoping to pull off a long-range plan with his ex-Godolphin galloper Lawan.
Murwillumbah-based Dunn will have at least four strong contenders in the race, headed by the favourite Snitz ($1.80 favourite on TAB fixed odds) but Jarvis is confident Lawan will run a bold race - especially if he gets ideal soft conditions.
"These Country Championships were my long-range plan for Lawan when I bought him from a Godolphin sale early last year," said Jarvis.
"Godolphin culls horses they don't think are up to city class and I was keen to buy this horse as I thought he'd be an ideal horse to set for this year's Country Championships."
Lawan had three runs for Godolphin - winning on a soft 6 at Newcastle at his second start in October, 2016 - before being purchased by Jarvis. His record is now two wins (both on soft tracks) and two placings from seven starts.
"He had two runs for me last year, winning a race at Coffs Harbour on a soft 7, and then I spelled him to get him ready for these Championships," said Jarvis.
Lawan, a four-year-old son of Lonhro, resumed at Port Macquarie over 1010m on February 2, finishing a good 1.4 length second to trainer Jenny Graham's talented galloper Awesome Pluck.
That galloper subsequently ran second to his stablemate Victorem in the Country Championship Qualilfier (1200m) at Port Macquarie on February 18.
Lawan had no luck at his latest outing at Newcastle on February 17, racing wide without cover after a slow start to finish sixth in a Benchmark 68 behind Art Of Dance.
"His first-up run at Port Macquarie behind Awesome Pluck was full of merit - he was finishing every bit as good as the winner," said Jarvis. "And it was great to see Awesome Pluck come out and run very well in the Country Championships Qualifier at Port Macquarie.
"The only suitable race I could find for Lawan second-up was at Newcastle so I had to truck him down there. He was slowly away and was trapped wide without cover.
"He now gets to a more suitable 1400m in Sunday's race and I expect the track will be a soft 6 or 7, so that will be ideal conditions for him and may not suit a few of the others.
"He's drawn well in gate two and ideally he will settle fourth or fifth on the rail. And I've got Matt McGuren riding him and Matty knows the Grafton track likes it's his own backyard."
Jarvis, 74, has been a trainer for 54 years. He moved to Coffs Harbour from Victoria 10 years ago and has had a lot of success with the likes of sprinter Plateau Gold and his former coutnry cups king Mr Gold Fire.
Jarvis has also had previous experience in the Country Championships with Ultimate Dreamer in 2016 and would love another chance this year.
Ultimate Dreamer ran second in the Qualifier at Grafton behind Profiler before finishing 11th to Clearly Innocent in the Final at Randwick.
"The Country Championships have been great for country trainers and their owners," he said.
"And this year's Final is looking like it could be the strongest one yet. So I'm not kidding myself, it'll be a hard race to win.
"But you've got to be in it to win it. Matt Dunn's runners are going to be hard to beat in Sunday's race, but I've got Lawan in perfect order and I think he'll be very competitive in the right conditions."
Sunday's Grafton race is the fifth in the series of regional qualifiers run so far. The first and second placegetters in each race qualify for the $500,000 Country Championships Final (1400m) to be run at Randwick on April 7.
Last year's Grafton Qualifier was won by Matt Dunn's Perfect Dare who trounced the Cathleen Rode-trained Free Standing by more than five lengths, but it was the runner-up who stole all the glory in the rich Randwick final on a heavy8 track a few weeks later.