By Ray Hickson
Tips and race by race preview by Ray Hickson for Sunday’s Country Championships Qualifier Showcase meeting at Port Macquarie. The track will be Good and the rail is in the true position.
|Race 1 – 12:50PM JOHN OXLEY MOTORS SHOWCASE HANDICAP (1100 METRES)|
I feel this race will very much be a real yard watch particularly surrounding on 3. Haames who was unplaced in two starts in August but he showed enough in those two races to suggest he has something. He didn’t show a lot of early pace but hit the line strongly late in both runs and if he’s matured a bit there’s a good opportunity here to win a race. He’s been kept safe in the market so far and if that continues on race day it’d be encouraging.
Dangers: 8. Heaven Help Me has looked to have her chance in her last couple of runs, hitting the lead before being run down. Kept a bit fresh since the last start fourth at this track and trialled a week ago. I’d expect she’ll be up on the pace and giving a sight. 1. Shoreditch had support at odds at his debut and he was out the back early then rushed home late into second. Better fo that experience and has slightly more ground this time. Must be considered. 4. Could I Be will find this easier than her debut effort behind Buckle Up at Wyong last month. She didn’t attack the line at all which is a small concern, and she was a huge drifter that day, but she could improve.
How to play it: Haames E/W ($4.60 TAB Fixed Odds).
Keep an eye on Haames hitting the line late at Coffs Harbour back in August
|Race 2 - 1:30PM PRIME7 MAIDEN SHOWCASE HANDICAP (1100 METRES)|
Tough to go past the favourite 1. Newsfan who looks very well placed by Kim Waugh to break through after two seconds at provincial level in the spring. Last time out he was bloused late by Cordoned who has progressed to a city win and he trialled behind a couple of nice horses at Gosford recently. With even luck from an awkward alley he’s clearly the one they have to beat.
Dangers: 3. Bengalley Lad might be the dark horse in the race on debut off three provincial trials in January. He was under pressure a bit in running second in the latest but there’s not a lot of depth here and it wouldn’t surprise to see him give a sight. 5. Natural Image has a few convictions but she has placed in six of her 10 starts and is rarely too far away. I thought she had every hope in a fillies and mares maiden here a month ago but from a good gate with Corey Brown in the saddle she’s worth including. 4. Dreamy Dragon was unwanted in the betting first-up off an 18 month break and ran out of his skin finishing second at Muswellbrook. If he can back that up he has to be at least a place chance.
How to play it: Newsfan WIN ($1.50 TAB Fixed Odds).
Newsfan is run down by Cordoned at Gosford in October
|Race 3 - 2:05PM DE PORTOLI WINES SHOWCASE HANDICAP (1500 METRES)|
The first couple of hundred metres will be important here and if 4. Manhattan Road can settle comfortably on the speed, or in the lead, he should take plenty of catching. Beaten favourite at 2000m and a mile before winning a solid form race over this course on January 26. Racing in fantastic form and looks a very good chance.
Dangers: 3. Forever Alone hasn’t won for a while but is racing very consistently with second placings at his last three starts. He did a bit of chasing last time out at this track, hit the lead then had no answer to the winner. Does need to find the line soon and is the logical danger. 1. Wewonya was a nice winner of a similar race four starts back, put in a couple of fair efforts then charged through the pack to just fail at Grafton a few weeks ago. Up 2.5kg for the class drop here and if they go crazy up front could swamp them. 5. Cantillate disappointed last start at Grafton but did win nicely enough at Ballina on Boxing Day. Might need a wet track to be a winning chance but certainly capable of a placing.
How to play it: Manhattan Road E/W ($3.80 TAB Fixed Odds).
Manhattan Road posts a game win at Port Macquarie on January 26
|Race 4 – 2.40PM TAB.COM.AU COUNTRY MAIDEN SHOWCASE (1500 METRES)|
Easily the toughest race on the program and it’s probably ripe for an upset. That said 8. Lady Sunday might have put the writing on the wall with a career best second placing over this course two weeks ago. She settled back but you had to like the way she finished the event off. If she matches the effort she should be right in the finish.
Dangers: 7. Arloarlo has found some form with a placing before a spell then a couple more since returning. Safely held by the winner at Armidale second-up but drawn nicely here to be closer to the pace and she’s a good each-way chance. 6. Wallaman was hard in the market here last start and really disappointed, stewards reported he had a slow recovery afterwards. So perhaps there was a minor issue. Prior to that he ran into third over the 1206m and if you can forgive that last effort he’s in the mix. 3. Natural Predator is a 26 start maiden so it is a little hard to get too keen on him from a winning perspective but he’s usually around the mark. Barrier 11 is a minus but Corey Brown has to be a plus so include him in the trifectas.
How to play it: Lady Sunday E/W ($4.60 TAB Fixed Odds).
Lady Sunday runs into second place at Port Macquarie on February 2
|Race 5 - 3:15PM PANTHERS PORT MACQUARIE HANDICAP (1800 METRES)|
4. Rage Against is a reasonably good price for a horse that’s won four of his last five starts including one at the provincials. Granted he goes up 3kg for his narrow Armidale win last time but he’s back 100m and should get a good enough run up on the pace with Manhattan Road contesting an earlier event to give him every chance to keep the winning streak going. If each-way ($5) is available he’d be a good play.
Dangers: 7. Exilia Miss was finishing with a wet sail behind Rage Against at Armidale then went to Grafton and just couldn’t get into the race at all. She’ll likely be conceding a start but if something attacks up front she’ll be one strong late. 9. Art Attack looked good to the eye when a popular winner over a mile at Grafton a couple of weeks ago when well supported. The only knock on him is he’s yet to finish better than third in 13 starts on a good track but he has to go in the mix. 2. Backhouse Billy held his ground fairly behind Rage Against at Armidale, running fourth, but he is is trained here and has only missed a place once in five attempts on his home track. Each-way hopes.
How to play it: Rage Against E/W ($4.60 TAB Fixed Odds).
Rage Against leads all the way to win at Armidale on January 29
|Race 6 - 4:00PM SCHWEPPES COUNTRY CLASS 2 PLATE (1100 METRES)|
The market has found 7. Majestic Pedrille as favourite, which is a shame as I thought we’d get a bit better, and she could be a handy one based on what she showed last time in. We haven’t seen her since a fifth behind Don’t Give A Damn in a 1500m Highway at Rosehill back in September, where he won by about six, and she had some pretty handy form before that too. The only negative is the 1100m but she is fresh and has the inside gate – and is clearly the most promising horse in the race. Hard to beat.
Dangers: 4. Rocket Monkey has attacked the line with plenty of gusto in two runs back from a spell and was well supported in winning at Armidale last time where he stretched out nicely late. No harder for him here and he is hard fit so he’s the one I’m most worried about. 2. Gripped is considered by connections to be some sort of a chance in the Country Championship Qualifier if he happened to gain a start so he has to be respected. I’d like him more if this were 1200m or so but he was far from disgraced in a Highway at Randwick last month so keep him safe. 6. Patriot beat Rocket Monkey at this track in January then went to Sydney and failed in a Highway but in the context of this race it should be overlooked. Blinkers go on and he’s capable of being competitive.
How to play it: Majestic Pedrille WIN ($3.50 TAB Fixed Odds).
Majestic Pedrille’s fifth in a strong Highway at Rosehill back in September
|Race 7 - 4:40PM MNCRA COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS QUALIFIER (1200 METRES)|
I don’t think anyone will argue that 5. Victorem is potentially the best horse in the Qualifier. He’s won three from four and while he hasn’t raced since his Highway win at Randwick in December, where plenty of strong form has come from since, he showed he’s ready with a nice trial win at Taree last week. He can be tricky at the start and will likely be in the second half in the run but with clear running he has the turn of foot to pick them up.
Dangers: 12. Shelley Beach Road is the best value in the race at around $13, a price that would be a lot shorter had she not drawn the car park. She was placed in a Highway at Rosehill in December then returned under a big weight to win over this course two weeks ago. She’s a go forward horse and if she gets a bit of luck early she could give plenty of cheek. 9. Shotgun Roulette wasn’t disgraced when she resumed in the Queen Of The North with 60.5kg a few weeks ago and will be a lot fitter, not to mention the 5kg weight drop. She was runner-up in this race last year at Taree also second-up and is an each-way chance. 4. Awesome Pluck had a nice easy kill over the short trip here on February 2 and he might well be back on track. All things being equal I think Victorem has him covered but things can go wrong in races and he’ll appreciate a bit of pace on up front. Couldn’t leave him out.
How to play it: Victorem WIN ($2.00 TAB Fixed Odds), Shelley Beach Road E/W ($13).
Victorem posts an easy win in a trial at Taree on February 12
|Race 8 - 5:15PM CARLTON DRAUGHT SHOWCASE HANDICAP (1100 METRES)|
Possibly the best each-way hope of the day comes up in the last in 8. No Qualm who has been charging home at the end of his races with plenty of purpose of late. Admittedly he has won four from 45 but he did find himself in the wilderness last preparation with seven unplaced efforts so his stats could look a bit better. Where he gets to from gate one could be a concern but if he gets the breaks he’s an excellent chance.
Dangers: 1. Jemily managed to hold off No Qualm over the 1000m here on Australia Day and meets him 1kg worse plus the extra 100m. That said she is racing very well and is clearly the highest rated horse in the race so has to be a threat again. 2. Kate’s Pearl has been thereabouts at provincial level of late though the wide barrier might level up her advantage a little. With a bit of luck she’s capable of being in the finish. 5. Mamzar is a lightly raced filly who gave a big sight at odds behind Shelley Beach Road here two weeks ago. That horse is a chance in the Country Championships event so she’s worth considering here too.
How to play it: No Qualm E/W ($8.50 TAB Fixed Odds).
No Qualm finishes the race off strongly from well back at Grafton on February 8