By Ray Hickson
Tips and race by race preview by Ray Hickson for Saturday’s Country Championships meeting at Coffs Harbour. Selections based on a soft track.
|Race 1 – 1:00PM COFFS ASPHALT HANDICAP (800 METRES)|
2. Seaczar showed a heap of gate speed to lead his Grafton trial recently and did it comfortably to run out an easy winner. Over the short course if he can bound out again he should take plenty of running down. Check the market for a push.
Dangers: 5. Golden Fantasy was sent out favourite on debut back in August at Port Macquarie and weakened late after leading. No recent trials so another market watch but has done enough to consider a good chance. 1. Wild Wind is a very interesting runner formerly with Team Hawkes in Sydney and not raced since a battling fourth at Warwick Farm on a heavy track. Blinkers go on, drawn wide and back in trip so there are pluses and minuses. Keep safe. 8. Boncassie is a two-year-old on debut and she showed enough finishing on well just behind them in her only trial to suggest she has some ability and in a wide open race it wouldn’t shock to see her feature..
How to play it: Seaczar WIN ($4.40 TAB Fixed Odds). Odds & Evens: SPLIT.
Seaczar wins a trial at Grafton on January 24
|Race 2 – 1.35PM THE SHORELINE PLATE (1200 METRES)|
3. Hypertension has a good chance to break through up in distance on his two runs back. Lost on protest first-up at Ballina then a little bit flat staying at 1000m at Grafton when solid in betting. Bit of give in the track looks to suit and drawn well so expect him to perform.
Dangers: 1. All Too Holy ran a nice race on debut here back in late December on a heavy track then jut held his ground at Armidale up to 1100m. Likely to get back from the outside gate but inclined to give another chance. 9. Desmos looked to go off the boil in her two runs before a spell but overall form last prep was quite solid. No official trials to go on so is a market watch but if finds her best form should be competitive. 7. Lebanna had some specking at odds at her belated debut at Tuncurry, she’s a six-year-old, and she found the line well behind a promising type in Apache Blue. Drawn well and if she can improve on that she’s an each-way hope.
How to play it: Hypertension WIN ($4.60 TAB Fixed Odds). Odds & Evens: ODDS.
Hypertension’s first-up run at Ballina on January 15
|Race 3 – 2:10PM BALLYNESS PLATE (1500 METRES)|
7. Bahamut hasn’t had a lot go his way in his three starts to date and resumes off a couple of handy trials where he’s just cruised around in behind them. If he runs up to those trials he’s a good chance here and if there’s support it’s worth following.
Dangers: 4. My Sonny’s Faith has been racing consistently on wet and dry tracks over various distances and charged to just miss at Taree last time out. Drawn well and only has to hold form to be very competitive. 2. Blackwater Brown is another that is hovering around a win and did quite a good job off a wide gate at Grafton last start, worked a bit and kept coming. Needs a bit of luck from a tricky draw but hard to ignore. 8. Full Press ran well first-up at Ballina a month ago then went to Newcastle and struggled after enjoying a nice enough run. Probably best to ignore that, trained here and is a likely improver.
How to play it: Bahamut WIN ($4.80 TAB Fixed Odds). Odds & Evens: SPLIT.
Bahamut runs fourth in a trial at Murwillumbah on January 31
|Race 4 – 2:50PM QUALITY HOTEL HANDICAP (1600 METRES)|
1. Group Think is the best horse in this race and does look well suited. Two runs back in Queensland have been sound, he was a drifter last time at the Gold Coast when boxing on okay but will find this easier. Entitled to go close.
Dangers: 6. Borlotti looks ready for the step up to the mile, he hit the line quite nicely at 1400m third-up at Grafton suggesting that this run will be his best so far this prep. Could take holding out. 3. Guest is a lot better than his two runs back would lead you to believe and expecting improvement here. Was in super form last time in but hasn’t shown it so far this prep. Drops nicely in weight and back onto his home track he can lift. 2. Camp Rifle is back in grade after leading and battling on fairly at Newcastle a couple of weeks ago as favourite. Well travelled, generally somewhere on the pace and worth including in the chances.
How to play it: Group Think WIN ($2.40 TAB Fixed Odds). Odds & Evens: SPLIT.
Group Think runs fourth at Gold Coast on January 30
|Race 5 – 3:30PM MNC HOTEL GROUP HANDICAP (1000 METRES)|
5. Lettemgo is arguably better suited at 1200m or so but in what looks a fast race he will be strong at the finish. Won in that style over 1115m two runs back and then jumped 300m for his final run of the prep. No public trials but fresh and should be hard to hold out.
Dangers: 3. Another Sheila has been hit and miss but did look quite good scoring over 1050m at Inverell after tracking the speed. That was in this grade and she’s drawn to get a nice soft run again. Go well. 2. Pride Of Pyingerra is an ex-Victorian who gave a big sight at Mornington a month ago before switching stables. Betting a good pointer but have to keep him safe. 10. Calmyourfarm had her first run for a local stable with a sound enough fifth at Ballina a month ago where she made some ground from well back. Every chance she will improve on that. Each-way.
How to play it: Lettemgo E/W ($12 TAB Fixed Odds). Odds & Evens: ODDS.
Lettemgo wins at Grafton on September 21
|Race 6 – 4:10PM COLOURWORKS PLATE (1200 METRES)|
5. Parksville is a promising type trying 1200m for the first time but shows every indication it will be no issue. Drew wide and sat outside the speed before powering away for an easy win at Ballina a month ago. Drawn the one and is clearly the one to beat.
Dangers: 10. Chase My Crown gave away a big start but rushed to the line strongly first-up at Port Macquarie a few weeks back. Chance she settles a bit closer from a favourable gate and that makes her dangerous. 11. Fantini is fitter for a game effort in a fast run Highway at Randwick last month where she was only cut out of third in the last stride. Ran well here fresh and is entitled to be in the finish somewhere. 12. Just Cosmos doesn’t have a great strike rate but did trial quite well behind Pace Stick at Grafton recently. Possibly short of her best trip but no surprise if she hits the line strongly late.
How to play it: Parksville WIN ($2.10 TAB Fixed Odds). Odds & Evens: SPLIT.
Parksville wins at Ballina on January 15
|Race 7 – 4:50PM COFFS COAST CRANES HANDICAP (1400 METRES)|
4. Divine Approach probably should have gone close at Canberra third-up out to this distance and has struck a winnable race. Down a notch in grade here and with the claim and gate one holds plenty of appeal. Take beating.
Dangers: 3. A Million Dreams was on the wrong part of the track when he raced here two runs back then put into the race at Armidale and was too strong, running up to good support. If he can match that effort he’ll be hard to beat. 6. Ballybrack caught the eye when running into second on a heavy track here but was a bit flat at 1100m at Armidale on a firmish track. Won at 1400m three back so probably looking for the distance. Give another chance. 10. Stormy Pluck was racing consistently prior to going under as a beaten favourite at Taree on a heavy track. Tends to get back and hit the line and is more than capable of showing up.
How to play it: Divine Approach WIN ($5.00 TAB Fixed Odds). Odds & Evens: SPLIT.
Divine Approach runs fourth at Canberra on January 22
|Race 8 – 5:25PM NRRA NEWHAVEN PARK COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS QUAL. (1400M)|
2. Plonka has had an identical build up to last year’s Qualifier which he won in good style and you could argue he’s going just as well despite being beaten at short odds in both runs. He’s had 61kg against open company so is thrown in at the weights. Best horse in the race, draw will require a good ride but at the price he’s worth the gamble.
Dangers: 14. Tara Jasmine is the most promising horse in the race and we really don’t know what her level is just yet. Overcame a tough run to post a fast time when spring at Grafton off a three month break. Drawn ideally and was again if she is well above average she can win. Read trainer John Shelton's comments here. 11. Northern Wilderose has a handy record on her home track and showed she’s on target with a nice first-up effort at Port Macquarie. Generally races on the speed somewhere so draw is in her favour and her best is good enough to give this a shake. 13. Amirykal is building a good record and showed improvement second-up at Grafton earning her a shot here. More depth but drawn to have every chance.
How to play it: Plonka E/W ($5.50 TAB Fixed Odds). Odds & Evens: EVENS.
Plonka runs fifth at Grafton on February 2