By Greg Prichard
Tamworth trainer Cody Morgan was delighted with the way Ligulate handled the latest important step in his preparation for The Kosciuszko and is looking forward to the five-year-old gelding's race return with great anticipation.
Ligulate ran in a 10-horse barrier trial over 1000m after the last race at Tamworth on Monday. He was three wide in the run - keeping out of trouble - and went to the extreme outside in the home straight, working home nicely over the final 200m for a 1.57 length second to Flashing Boy.
"I was very happy with it," Morgan said.
"He did exactly what we wanted him to do. Now we'll press on with our plan to run him in an Open Handicap over 1200m at Tamworth on September 14 and see how things look after that."
The timing of his return means Ligulate won't get the chance to impress in a recent race start before the lucky slot-holders for the $1.3 million race at Randwick on October 17 rush to pick the best horses, but it is not expected to matter for a galloper with his record.
The Kosciuszko is a unique event in that members of the public can have horses running for them and share in the prizemoney and we are inside the final week of $5 sweepstake tickets being available for the 14 slots.
Tickets can be purchased via the TAB App or from a local TAB outlet until Monday, September 7, and the draw will be conducted two days later - after which the slot-holders will try to secure deals with the connections of star horses.
But the fact Ligulate won't reappear under race conditions until five days after the draw shouldn't make any difference.
Even if all 14 slots are filled by then, his exposed form emphatically suggests he will be among them.
Ligulate won a heat of the Country Championships at Tamworth in March and then finished an unlucky eighth, beaten just 1.9 lengths, in the final at Randwick in April after twice being inconvenienced inside the last 300m. He then won the Tamworth Cup before being spelled.
TAB fixed odds betting on the race has Ligulate at $11, with only four horses ahead of him.
"He's trialled really well twice now," Morgan said.
"We haven't really mapped out too much after what will be his first start back - whether we give him another run in Sydney or go relatively fresh second-up into the Kosciuszko.
Ligulate runs second in a trial at Tamworth on August 31
"We targeted the Country Champs and now we've targeted the Kosciuszko. He hasn't had a lot of racing, so there's still improvement there, and he's a really big boy.
"There won't be a bigger horse in the race than him. He's coming along really well."
Morgan was philosophical about the Country Championships defeat.
"There were probably half-a-dozen horses with a similar story to us, but you can get that in a big, competitive field," he said.
"The last 100 metres he went to the line untested, but that sort of thing happens in racing and we're just looking forward to The Kosciuszko now."