By Ray Hickson
Champion jockey Hugh Bowman is adding his star power to Mudgee’s Country Championships meeting on Sunday.
A day after, hopefully, piloting Winx to her 23rd Group 1 win in the Chipping Norton Stakes at Randwick, Bowman will team up with leading local trainer Cameron Crockett to ride Ori On Fire in the $150,000 CDRA Qualifier (1400m).
Among Bowman’s other rides at the meeting will be Free Ticket, part-owned by his dad Jim, and Potent Force for Mudgee trainer Mack Griffith.
“I love to help out the country clubs where possible but it’s harder these days,’’ Bowman said.
“Mudgee is always a great day and it’s close to home (Dunedoo). The club does a great job and it’s fantastic to be able to support the meeting.’’
Bowman landed his 87th Group 1 win last weekend on Alizee in the Futurity Stakes in Melbourne and most would expect him to head to Mudgee with at least 88 majors to his name thanks to Winx.
Cameron Crockett will be hoping Bowman’s presence in the saddle will bring Ori On Fire a bit more luck than he had during the 2018 Country Championships series.
The gelding had two near misses attempting to qualify for the $500,000 Newhaven Park Country Championships Final - he ran a gallant third in the Mudgee Qualifier last year, run in heavy rain, then finished fourth in the Muswellbrook Wild Card beaten 0.13 lengths by the runner-up.
Ori On Fire was an impressive Highway winner at Randwick at the end of December and completed his preparation for Sunday’s race with a closing third at Orange over 1300m on February 16.
Mudgee Race Club secretary Colleen Walker is excited that Bowman has decided to make the trip west, especially given it's just a day after the hype and attention Winx creates.
“We are honoured to have a fine ambassador supporting country racing and riding at the meeting,’’ she said.
“He sees it as an opportunity to give back to country racing and he’ll be out there doing his best like all the other riders.’’
The Country Championships meeting completes a big weekend for Mudgee with the Charity Shield rugby league clash between St George and South Sydney taking place on Saturday night.