By Ray Hickson
Nothing short of a career best performance is what trainer Melanie O’Gorman says her Country Championships hopeful Beauty Best must produce at Tamworth on Sunday to have any chance of progressing to next month’s Final in Sydney.
The Tamworth trainer won the Hunter and North West Qualifier in 2018, held at Scone, with her former star galloper Suncraze so she knows exactly what it takes to earn a spot in the $500,000 Newhaven Park Country Championships Final (1400m).
When the 29 nominations were released on Tuesday the strength of the $150,000 HNWRA Country Championships Qualifier (1400m) became apparent with a Benchmark rating of more than 70 required to make the final field of 14.
“He will have to really produce his absolute best, he will have to give me the best run I’ve had from him to feature in this event,’’ O’Gorman said of Beauty Best.
“Ideally I’d love to draw inside five because he can take a forward position over the 1400m. He will need all the help he can get.
“Anyone who qualifies from our area you would be thinking you’re a really good chance in the Final.’’
Three of the top four horses in TAB’s all-in market on the April 4 Final will compete at Tamworth on Sunday – local trainer Cody Morgan’s duo of Mahalangur ($8) and Ligulate ($9) and last year’s Provincial Championships winner Bobbing ($9), now trained at Scone.
Beauty Best might be a seven-year-old but he has been a work in progress and the past 12 months have been his best.
They’ve shaped how O’Gorman has prepared him in 2020 – he’s had two runs from a spell, including a last start second over 1280m at Muswellbrook, whereas last year she attempted to win the Qualifier first-up from a 10 month break and he managed sixth behind Unbiased.
“Hindsight is a great thing but if I had my time again last year I would have done things differently,’’ she said.
“I would have given him one or two runs before the Qualifier.
“I learnt a lot about the horse, holding him up for five or six runs and he seemed to perform better the more runs I gave him.
“He didn’t hit peak form until two or three runs in when he ran second in the Guyra Cup and was only narrowly beaten in the Tamworth Cup by Unbiased.
“I put him away thinking I would do things differently, I know I have a sound horse and a happy horse and I feel I can keep him up for longer. I’m hoping changing my program slightly into the race it will give him a slightly better chance.”
Jockey Brooke Stower, who has ridden the gelding three times including the Tamworth Cup, has the ride on Beauty Best on Sunday.
Beauty Best runs second at Muswellbrook on February 17
O’Gorman’s charge doesn’t have the profile of his former stablemate Suncraze, who ran seventh in the 2018 Final and later that year finished second in the inaugural $1.3m The Kosciuszko, and she’s happy to have the pressure off her.
Suncraze, who won five races from 22 starts and over $580,000, was retired after contesting the 2019 edition of The Kosciuszko.
“There’s a lot more hype around a few other horses and rightly so,’’ she said.
“There are some very good horses in our heat. My old horse Beauty Best is really honest and I think I have him in great shape for Sunday.
“I’m looking forward to a great day at the races, no pressure and I’ll just be happy to see him run well.”
First and second from the Tamworth Qualifier earn places in the $500,000 Newhaven Park Country Championships Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick on April 4.