Trainer Marc Quinn expects lightly-raced mare Nashian to be hard to beat in the expected heavy conditions at Port Macquarie on Friday and hopefully set up what could be a terrific few days for his stable.
The Port Macquarie-based trainer has Nashian lining up in Friday's Benchmark 58 Hcp (1206m) on his home track while stablemate Gumshoe has a more important assignment in Sunday's $50,000 Country Championship Wild Card (1280m) at Muswellbrook.
First and second placegetters in the Wild Card progress to the $500,000 Country Championships Final (1400m) at Randwick on April 4.
Gumshoe finished ninth of 14 behind Magnalane in the MNC Country Championships Qualifer (1400m) at Taree on February 23.
Nashian was nominated for that same Qualifier at Taree but did not make the field and instead resumed at Port Macquarie on March 5, finishing a fighting second to Teo Torriate in a F&M Benchmark 58 Hcp (1200m) on a heavy 9 track.
The two gallopers staged a two-horse war for the length of the straight with Teo Torriate just edging out Nashian, who was resuming since last July.
"We had to give her a longer-than-expected spell last year as she strained a suspensory in her front leg," said Quinn. "It was nothing major, but just meant she was sidelined a couple of extra months."
The mare was ridden by Quinn's apprentice Liam Blanch when she resumed at Port Macquare earlier this month and the 3kg-claiming rider has the mount again on Friday.
"I wasn't concerned about the wide draw for her first-up at Port Macquarie as she's a mare who likes a bit of racing room," said Quinn.
"But Liam's inexperience probably cost her the win. I think she had the winner 'cold' at the 250m, but then Liam pulled the whip and she went from being about a head in front to about a half-length behind. When he put the whip away inside the 100m she was taking ground off the winner again.
"She's a mare who gives her all without the whip, so Liam won't be doing that again on Friday.
"She's come through that first-up run in terrific order and looks hard to beat on Friday, although she has drawn closer in this time (barrier two) which probably isn't ideal for her.
"But she gets through heavy ground no problem and I think the Port Macquarie track will definitely still be a genuine heavy by Friday."
The Port Macquarie track was rated a heavy 9 on Wednesday morning after receiving 123mm of rain over the past week.
Nashian has had three runs on heavy ground for her Port Macquarie placing, a close fifth behind stablemate Gumshoe in a TAB Highway at Randwick on June 22 last year and an unplaced run at Rosehill the end of her last campaign when she had come to the end of her prep.
Quinn, meanwhile, said Gumshoe was ready to run a big race in Sunday's Country Championships Qualifier at Muswellbrook but admits the field is shaping up as especially strong this year.
Good Scone-trained sprinter Bobbing and the promising Muswellbrook galloper Two Big Fari are among the nominations for Sunday's Wild Card.
Quinn blamed the eight-day back-up for Gumshoe's last-start performance in the Country Championships Qualifier at Taree on February 23 when ninth behind Magnalane.
"I was originally planning to run him in two 1200m races a fortnight apart leading into the Country Championships Qualifier, but we lost a few barrier trials around that time and I was forced to run him at Gosford (on February 15). He won well at Gosford, but I think it took the speed out of his legs backing up just eight days later," said Quinn.
"But he's come through that race really well and is as good as we can have him for Sunday's race. Hopefully he can draw a good alley at Muswellbrook and run to his best."
Fellow Port Macquarie trainer Neil Godbolt looks to have a couple of good chances on Friday's eight-race meeting including Maiden gallopers Frivolosophy (race one) and Walton Hall (race three), who can both go one better than their respective second placings on heavy tracks when they resumed recently.
Frivolosophy was a first-up second to Bel Academy on a heavy9 at Coffs Harbour on March 9 while Walton Hall was second to easy winner Exotic Pearl on a heavy 8 at Port Macquarie on March 5.