By Ray Hickson
The unbeaten Noble Boy will carry the mantle of Country Championships favourite into his first-up run at Warwick Farm on Saturday.
TAB has released its all-in market on the $500,000 Newhaven Park Country Championships Final (1400m) and the Queanbeyan galloper holds sway at $4.50 ahead of I Am A Cool Kid, a recent dominant Highway winner, at $6.
A clash between the two early favourites was on the cards when nominations were received for Saturday’s Highway but that will have to wait until April 6, assuming both qualify, as I Am A Cool Kid wasn’t among acceptors.
“Noble Boy rounded them up in his first trip to town for a TAB Highway back in December, and that was enough for our bookies to install the gelding as favourite to win the Final on April 6,’’ TAB’s Gerard Middleton said.
Noble Boy wins a Highway at Rosehill on December 1
Dubbo (Western Region) hosts the first of the $150,000 Country Championships Qualifiers on Sunday then the series progresses to Port Macquarie, Albury, Goulburn, Mudgee, Tamworth, Grafton and the wild card at Muswellbrook.
Trainer Todd Blowes has Noble Boy headed for the South-East Qualifier at Goulburn on March 2 where he’ll meet the likes of Sei Stella, Common Purpose (both $11) and Chewbacca ($15) among others.
“The south east looks particularly strong this year and horses from that region occupy three of the top four spots in the market, with the other being the Mudgee-based I Am A Cool Kid, trained by Gayna Williams,’’ Middleton said.
“The six-year-old has had just the four starts due to a host of problems, but his talent was there for all to see at Randwick on Australia Day when he absolutely bolted in.
“We’ll get more of a feel for how these gallopers are tracking this weekend when Noble Boy faces some strong competition in the TAB Highway at Warwick Farm.”
Generous odds are on offer about some talented horses in the early market – likely Port Macquarie heat favourite Awesome Pluck is $26 as is last Sunday’s impressive winner Coup De Main and 2018 North-West Qualifier winner Suncraze.
A Martin Placepick, the likely favourite for Sunday’s Dubbo Qualifier, is rated a $51 chance.
First and second in each Qualifier earn their place in the Final at Royal Randwick.