By Julieanne Horsman
Epic Decision will have to overcome more than a wide barrier if he is to become the first Gunnedah-trained horse to qualify for the $500,000 Country Championships final.
The gelding has won two of his last three starts and trainer Gavin Groth is sure it would have been three if he had drawn better at Tamworth.
“I have no doubt in my mind the barrier beat him at Tamworth,” Groth said. “He was caught three-wide with no cover. He’s much better when he is allowed to settle.”
When he lines up in the Hunter and North West Country Championships heat at Scone on Sunday he will also have to overcome a distance query. It’ll be his first attempt at 1400m although he has won over 1200m before.
“I would have been confident he’d run it out had he drawn closer but his breeding suggests he will get the 1400m and he’s in great shape,” Groth said.
At his last outing in the Lightning Handicap at Walcha on 9th February, Epic Decision shot up the rail from back to front to salute ahead of Art’s Got A Gun and Four More Millers. The conditions of entry meant he couldn’t have another run before the Country Championships so he was given a barrier trial at Scone last week instead.
“We took the visors off in the trial to see what happened but the jockey said to put them straight back on again as he didn’t concentrate without them,” Groth said. “He benefited from the trial and was right behind some nice horses (Caerless Choice and Remittance) without too much encouragement.”
Jockey Leanne Henry was aboard for that trial and his most recent win and will again be in the saddle on Sunday.
“They seem to have a bit of an affinity,” Groth said. “Leanne’s experienced, strong and can get the best out of him. I’d like to see a bit of speed underneath him so he can move over and get a bit of cover midfield.”
Groth is aware Epic Decision has his work cut out for him but if he was to finish in the top two it would be a shot in the arm for him and owner/breed Charlie While. He was in hospital recently but is determined to get to the track to watch Epic Decision race.
“Charlie bred him and took him to the sales but when he was passed in he asked me if I’d like to train him and we went halves,” Groth said. “I’ve him since he was an unbroken two-year-old and have done everything with him. He’s a great horse to have in the stable. He always tries his little heart out. He likes to do his best and loves to win.
“I will be happy if he runs a strong race and holds his head high in good company but anything can happen in racing.”