By Ray Hickson
Tips and race by race preview by Ray Hickson for Sunday’s Country Championships meeting at Grafton. Selections based on a soft track.
|Race 1 – 1:00PM CLARENCE COAST AIR CONDITIONING HANDICAP (1200 METRES)|
1. We Concur is way too short but at the same time it’s impossible to find something on form to beat him. Strong late when winning his maiden at Grafton in October before a spell and in his Deagon trial he wasn’t tested out at all. Looks the winner.
Dangers: 4. Bungaree Boy showed some improvement when taken to the front at Ballina third-up and if similar tactics are employed here he could give a bit of cheek. Soft conditions shouldn’t worry him. 5. Honour Your Offer is probably not far off a win in the right race but what he doesn’t want is a wet track. Yet to place in nine starts on wet ground of any type. Sound efforts at his last two so if he holds that form he has some hope. 6. More Than Magico is unknown in the wet but on his effort at Walcha two starts back he could run into a placing. Only fair last time but this isn’t strong so throw him in the mix.
How to play it: Trifecta 1/ 4,5,6/4,5,6.
We Concur wins at Grafton back in October
|Race 2 - 1:40PM YAMBA GOLF CLUB SEAFIRE RESTAURANT HANDICAP (1400 METRES)|
4. Salad Dodger is right in his comfort zone here third-up with barrier one at the tricky 1400m start. Raced three wide on the pace and was too good at Taree and any rain won’t hurt his chances. Will be in the first few in running and looks one of the hardest to beat.
Dangers: 5. Dark Image doesn’t win out of turn and he ran well first-up over an unsuitable trip then sat three wide and weakened at Lismore. Drawn nicely for the first time this prep, likes the wet and sure to run a big race at good odds. 1. Courage Within led all the way to an easy Gold Coast win as a short-priced favourite before a forgive run at Eagle Farm. He wasn’t the best out and was always chasing so overlook that. Can give a sight. 2. Westrock has been fair at best in his last couple but the blinkers have been called for here so he might be worth another chance. Significant jockey change shouldn’t go unnoticed either.
How to play it: Salad Dodger E/W ($4.80 TAB Fixed Odds).
Salad Dodger wins at Taree on February 25
|Race 3 – 2.15PM YAMBA PUMPS AND IRRIGATION HANDICAP (1700 METRES)|
2. Spanish Hurricane was huge when winning at Ballina over 1905m last start, making a long run from back in the field to score. Back 200m is a negative but has a heavy track win so any rain helps. Must be hard to beat again.
Dangers: 6. Glamorous Miss showed improvement second-up and was strong late at Ipswich over 1350m when a fairly solid favourite. Drawn well so if the distance jump isn’t too sudden she has strong claims. 4. On The Tweed has only failed once of late and that was in open three-year-old company. Ran on nicely when the race was over at Coffs Harbour over a mile and is an each-way hope. 10. Redraw will be on the pace and he had good support before running fourth at Coffs Harbour a couple of weeks back. Each-way claims.
How to play it: Spanish Hurricane WIN ($2.50 TAB Fixed Odds).
Spanish Hurricane wins at Ballina on February 28
|Race 4 – 2.50PM THE BIG SHAVE HANDICAP (1200 METRES)|
2. Shinstar will need some luck from the wide gate but she’s flying this time in. Broke through two starts ago then liked the way she hit the line late at Ballina. There’s some speed on paper and if she slots into a good spot handy to the lead she can go close in an open race.
Dangers: 7. Natural Image has drawn out with Shinstar and expect will try to come across onto the speed too. She was winless through 25 starts then all of a sudden romped away with a maiden at Taree. Handles all conditions and should be thereabouts. 1. Mother To Race Her raced consistently last time in before failing in an 1800m Highway. Latest trial okay and gets in light with a 4kg claimer on board. Can win if the race pans out for her but not entitled to be favourite for mine. 3. Mount Heidi took a run to hit her straps then she was supported at odds and gave a big sight in running second over this course a month ago. Can give a sight here too.
How to play it: Shinstar E/W ($5.50 TAB Fixed Odds).
Shinstar runs second at Ballina on February 28
|Race 5 – 3.30PM YAMBA GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB PLATE (1200 METRES)|
11. Wakata is a lightly raced mare who hasn’t raced since April but the way she travelled in a recent trial she’ll be breaking through shortly. Has experience on a wet track and looks perfectly placed. Worthy favourite and very hard to beat first-up.
Dangers: 3. Bus Ticket is bursting to win a race having put six placings, five of those seconds, together. Seems to handle the wet, is obviously consistent and he’s impossible to leave out of the main chances. 12. Without Risk is a stablemate to Wakata and she’s also resuming though only since October. No real guide from her Doomben trial but hit the line well when placed at Ipswich before a spell. Sure to be running on. 10. Sfilza loomed up to win at Port Macquarie last time and did battle on gamely when headed to hold down second. Hasn’t done a lot wrong and drawn to have every chance.
How to play it: Wakata WIN ($2.70 TAB Fixed Odds).
Wakata easily wins a trial at Ballina on February 28
|Race 6 - 4:10PM BOWLO SPORTS & LEISURE YAMBA HANDICAP (1100 METRES)|
6. Amorita is a promising filly whose only poor showing was in a Listed race on debut. Won easily first-up last prep then ran on from the back into third at Ipswich before another break. Very quiet trial at Doomben when not tested at all and from gate two should be hard to beat with a bit of luck as she can settle back.
Dangers: 1. Saxophone is an ex-Godolphin horse making his local debut for john Shelton with no public trials. On his best form he is city class and he’s not in badly with 60kg. Good gate, good jockey, keep very safe. 2. The Drake couldn’t have been more impressive in his strong win at Port Macquarie back to 1006m where he stormed down the outside late to win easily. If he reproduces that effort he’ll go well here, the barrier is a bit sticky. 8. Lady Clare is coming off a maiden win but it was a handy effort and she's in very light with the claim. Wouldn't surprise to see her give some cheek.
How to play it: Amorita WIN ($2.40 TAB Fixed Odds).
Amorita’s first-up win last preparation at Ipswich in October
|Race 7 - 4:50PM NRRA COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS QUALIFIER (1400 METRES)|
3. Queen Of Kingston has plenty going for her and it was hard to miss her first-up effort at Ballina over 1000m which was way too short. Punter's Intelligence data shows she ran a last 600m of 32.63 (overall last 600m 34.34) and a final 200m of 10.70! It was a nice clean out though and she steps to the right trip, she’s unbeaten at Grafton and fires second-up. Drawn perfectly with a lot of speed outside and it’d be a surprise if she doesn’t run very well.
Dangers: 13. La Scopa is clearly the horse to beat but is way too short for mine considering she’s a small risk if it’s a very wet track. Down in grade on her last run at Eagle Farm where she had her chance but was beaten less than a length. Logical danger. 1. Evopex hasn’t raced since he led all the way to win a 1600m Highway on a heavy track in October. He always runs well fresh and 1400m suits first-up particularly if it is wet. Sure to run a handy race. 4. Kitteau probably should be unbeaten this time in, between his two Ballina wins he had no luck at all on the fence and couldn’t get clear. Drops 6.5kg on his last start win and is one to throw in at good odds. 2. She’s Choosie has won five races and took on open company when an even second at Armidale a couple of weeks back. Will need luck but she’s handy and can’t be left out.
How to play it: Queen Of Kingston E/W ($8.50 TAB Fixed Odds).
Queen Of Kingston’s eye-catching third at Ballina on February 28
Read comments from the trainer of every runner in the Country Championships Qualifier here.
|Race 8 - 5:30PM BLUES MUSIC ON THE WESTLAWN HANDICAP (1200 METRES)|
1. Hydrazine should give each-way punters a decent run in a wide open race. He’s been outsped over 1000m at his last couple of starts but has stayed on well for seconds here and Ballina. With good speed engaged and a perfect draw he should settle just off them and have his chance in the straight.
Dangers: 5. Ferniehurst is fitter for two runs back and was good enough to be placed in last year’s Qualifier. No match for the winner second-up but likely to look for the lead here and if she finds it she can be hard to run down. 6. Dantga has been thereabouts of late in similar races and wasn’t far from Ferniehurst last time they met at Coffs Harbour. Also goes forward and is right in this. Can’t leave out 9. Menneke Belle who has also been mixing it with the previously mentioned pair running a close second at Grafton two back before a fair effort at Coffs. Worth another chance and that puts her in the mix too.
How to play it: Hydrazine E/W ($5.50 TAB Fixed Odds).
Hydrazine runs second at Ballina on February 28