Goulburn trainer Kurt Goldman expects lightly-raced four-year-old Tickler to enhance his Country Championships prospects when he steps out at Wagga on Tuesday.
The Deep Field gelding, who has one win from six starts, should relish the step up to the 1400m when he lines up for his fourth start this preparation in the Benchmark 66 Hcp, the final race at Tuesday's eight-race meeting .
Tickler began his current campaign with solid efforts in a couple of TAB Highways at Randwick, a first-up eighth behind Remlaps Gem over 1000m on December 12 and then a 2.2-length fourth to Pinnacle Prince over 1100m on December 26.
The gelding then ran an eye-catching second to the $1.70 favourite Kattegat in a $50,000 Class 3 Hcp (1200m) at the original Moruya Cup meeting on January 4, storming home late from back in the field after a slow start.
Tickler has always shown ability from the start and Goldman had no qualms about taking him to Warwick Farm for his winning debut last June when he upset the $1.50 favourite Deep Space from the Kris Lees stable in 3YO Maiden over 1100m.
Tickler is one of several horses Goldman is hoping to head to the $150,000 SERA Country Championships Qualifier (1400m) at Nowra on February 14.
"He just got run off his legs over the shorter trips at his first two runs this time in at Randwick and then he stepped up to 1200m last start at Moruya where he missed the start and got back, which was quite uncharacteristic for him," said Goldman.
"He's had a jumpout since and he did everything right there. The blinkers go on him on Tuesday and hopefully he can win and get his rating up as he heads towards the Country Championships Qualifer on February 14.
"I may give him another run before Nowra, but I'll see what happens on Tuesday first."
Goldman has booked top jockey Blaike McDougall for Tickler as well as for his earlier runner Underground Music, who resumes from a 10-month lay-off in the Benchmark 58 Hcp (1200m).
McDougall, who is having a stellar season with 99 winners to date to sit on top of the overall NSW premiership (100 in Australia), has ridden trebles at three of the past four Wagga meetings. He has been in particularly hot form this month, kicking off the new year with 13 winners since January 1.
"Tickler has the big weight (60kg) and steps up to the 1400m, so he will need a conservative ride and Blaike is the best man for the job - he's absolutely flying at the moment." said Goldman.
Goldman expects four-year-old mare Underground Music to run well at her first run since last March when she was unplaced in what turned out to be a very strong form race at Kembla Grange. At her previous start she broke through at her third run when she won a Maiden at Wagga on February 13.
"She returns to Wagga for her comeback run and I expect her to race well," said the trainer.
"After she won her Maiden I took her to Kembla and at first I was disappointed with the run, but looking back on the race it has turned out to be a pretty strong Class 1. The winner (Icebath) almost won the Golden Eagle in the spring and the second horse from Godolphin (Amitto) went on to win a couple of races.
"Underground Music had a bit longer lay-off than planned as she suffered a laceration to her leg when we first brought her back in.
"She's had a couple of recent jumpouts and has improved with each one, and I think she'll race well first-up in Tuesday's race. She may also head towards the Country Championships Qualifier with Tickler and I have another one, Clearly Regal, who may head that way too."
Tickler runs second at Moruya on January 4
Goldman's two other acceptors on Tuesday are Special Privilege in the Class 2 Hcp (1000m) and Important Product in the Maiden Plate (1300m).
"Special Privilege probably won't be running, but Important Product could be a big improver back on a firm track. I probably shouldn't have run him first-up in the wet ground at Moruya," he said.
Important Product was well in the market when he resumed on a soft 7 in a Maiden Plate at Moruya on January 4 but finished 10th of 11 behind Tornac.
Former Adelaide galloper Theresabearinthere will start a short-priced favourite when he makes his NSW debut for Albury trainer Mitchell Beer in the Class 2 Hcp (1000m).
The three-year-old won won two of his five starts for Adelaide trainer Richardy and Chantelle Jolly before Beer purchased him late last year.
Theresabearinthere won two of his first three starts last year - both at Morphettville - and also wasn't beaten far when he headed across to Melbourne to finish fourth to Hard Landing in 3YO Hcp (1000m) at Moonee Valley last August.
Beer will have several other key chances on Tuesday, including Gallant Run who can break through in the opening race, the Maiden Hcp (1000m). Gallant Run was beaten in the last stride at Albury last week at his second run for the stable.