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Punter's Pal - Country Championships Final

By Ray Hickson

Nothing but quotes from the trainer of every runner in the $500,000 Newhaven Park Country Championships Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.

How might they handle a wet track, what have they done since their qualifiers and where might they get to in the run are some of the comments the trainers offered.

1. Noble Boy (Todd Blowes, Queanbeyan): “The horse is back to 100 per cent, back to his normal self so I couldn’t be happier with him. It’s a sense of relief to see him go out there and get what we set out to do done. But it’s not a matter of simply going out there and winning, it’s still a horse race and a lot of things can go wrong. There’ll definitely be a bit of give in the track which will suit him and with Hughie (Bowman) on board it takes a bit of pressure off. No instructions needed, I just let him go out and do his thing. When you look at it on paper we’ve got more going for us than against us.’’

Unbiased wins the Tamworth Qualifier (Pic: Bradley Photos).

2. Unbiased (Cody Morgan, Tamworth): “He’s definitely come on since the Qualifier. I would have loved to be third-up into the race off a long break but we are where we are. The confidence is dented a little from the barrier, that’s for sure, but the horse himself is really well. He galloped in company with Manabar, which is a good yardstick for me, this week and beat him comfortably. He definitely goes to the races a fitter horse. We’ll ride him how he jumps, if he’s steady away he’ll go back or he’ll sit midfield and try and get some cover.’’

3. Al Mah Haha (Tash Burleigh, Goulburn): “It was a huge run (in the Qualifier) to be four wide basically the trip and to finish off the way he did we were so proud of him. He came through the race perfectly, he’s a really happy horse and is jumping out of his skin. I’m happy that he’s drawn a better barrier this time, as long as he can get a nice run in transit and stay out of trouble I think he will be very strong at the finish.’’

4. Tim’s Principal (Jeremy Gask, Scone): “We gave him a fairly easy time of it (after the Qualifier) and tossed up about whether to go for a trial or a jump out but I’m happy with him, he’s done plenty of work. He’s settling better now, that was the key to him getting home, so I am confident 1400m is no problem for him. We will go back and slot in but it would nice to just lob there without being asked to be there. We’re going down with some confidence and I think the horse is improving as we are learning about him.’’

5. Ori On Fire (Cameron Crockett, Mudgee): “If he’s ever going to do it he’s going to do it on Saturday. I’ve had a lot of horses travel to Randwick and not handle the track for whatever reason but he’s had two starts there for a first and second. I was going (to Muswellbrook) to see if he’s still in good form, because he’s the worst trackworker I’ve ever had, and for a good pipe opener. If he can run 1400m he has a shot because he’s an honest horse, his form is good and he tries hard.’’

Trainer Darren Hyde (Pic: Janian McMillan/Sarsfield Thor'breds.)

6. Westlink (Darren Hyde, Dubbo): “He’s very fit and very healthy. I’d be happy with a soft track but with a heavy you’d be going down there with an unknown. Right from the word go he’s always shown how talented he is, it’s taken him this prep to really hit his straps and after he won at Dubbo he went to that next level again. You could see it in the horse, his coat turned and he shined. He was a Class 3 horse going into open company in the Diggers Cup (at Cowra) and he put them to the sword. If the racing Gods are on our side we are going to be in this for a long way.’’

7. Bocelli (Tash Burleigh, Goulburn): “He’s trained on super, he’s a totally different horse to Al Mah Haha and I’m playing conservatively with him because there’s bigger and better things for him later on. He had a gallop on the course proper and goes into it really well. He’s drawn out which is fine, I think he will get back pretty much how he did in the Qualifier. Hopefully a couple of nice splits can open up in the run and he will be thereabouts. He’s come along so much since his first preparation and he’ll want a little more ground in time. If he can present the way he does at home then he should have a nice couple of races in store for him.’’

8. Safe Landing (Kurt Goldman, Goulburn): “I can see him either outside the leader or one pair back from the draw. We want to make sure we give him every chance to run out the strong 1400m. The other day we ran very quick sectionals so he was entitled to be stopping late so he’ll be ridden more conservative this time. Whether he still leads will depend on what other horses are doing around him. On Monday he had a nice steady working gallop over 600m, he is pretty fit being fifth-up. I think he may be a little under-rated, it’s going to be hard to turn the tables on Noble Boy but outside that he’s shown enough class to say he should be figuring in the top five.’’

9. Noel’s Gift (Gayna Williams, Mudgee): “He hasn’t done a lot in the last month, I didn’t want to get a lot of miles in his legs because he’s looking for further so I wanted to keep him on the fresh side. An outside barrier isn’t good, you can’t do what you want to do but having said that an inside draw wouldn’t be beneficial for him at all. I feel he is going better than last year, he had a good spell before this prep and he’s more mature. I’m expecting him to run a good race, I’m happy with how he is going into the race.’’

Trainer Gayna Williams (Pic: Bradley Photos).

10. Texas Storm (Bob Milligan, Taree): Foreman Glen Milligan says “Everyone tells me who rides him he wants 1400m to a mile. We decided to run him the other day at Taree with the big weight because he needed another run and we didn’t have to cart him anywhere. Ideally it’d be nice if he’s midfield, Tim Clark will have no specific instructions but I wouldn’t want him out the back. I think he has plenty of ability, the penny might be just starting to drop with him at the right time.’’

11. Sons Of Bourke (Clint Lundholm, Dubbo): “Put a line through his last run, it looked like the perfect race and the perfect run in for us. We thought he would be very competitive and things didn’t go our way, he copped a bad check going into the turn and blundered pretty bad. He doesn’t know he’s 100/1, he looks a million dollars and feels well so we’re going to have a crack at them. It’s racing, anything can happen. I’m taking a horse down there that’s fit and looks well. The rest is up to him and Banksy.’’

12. Queen Of Kingston (Daniel S Bowen, Lismore): “It was a tough effort at Grafton, she was cantering on straightening and she was always going to be vulnerable late. She was just run down by a horse that was well weighted, she gave the winner 3kg and she has improved from the run and meets it 1.5kg better. The barrier is a concern, on paper I think the race is devoid of speed, but if it is wet it eliminates a few runners and helps with the draw and if there’s no speed she could end up in front. I’ll give Ben (Looker) an open book. A lot of these horses have won and been impressive but maybe their grand final was the heat whereas she is coming on.”

13. Bennelong Dancer (Donna Scott, Albury): “I’ve had no dramas with her, everything has gone to plan. She had her final gallop on Tuesday and she arrived safely in Sydney on Thursday. All you can do is win, the only slight concern is a bit of weather. Ideally I would have liked a Good 3 or 4, she can be a bit funny if the ground is a bit shifty but if she gets her toe into it she will be all right. Hopefully we can get a nice run in transit with a bit of cover and give her every possible chance.’’

Bennelong Dancer wins the Albury Qualifier (Pic: Kylie Shaw, Trackpix)

14. La Scopa (Matthew Dunn, Murwillumbah): “We left a bit of improvement in her because of the space between runs. She galloped on Tuesday and worked as well as I’ve probably seen her work. When she works good she runs good. She comes out of nine, it’s a good gate for her because she’s not overly happy in traffic. We’ll ride her soft, we’re a bit the same as Noble Boy we’d like a bit of tempo where on paper there doesn’t look a lot but I’m sure there’ll be speed.’’

15. Lucciola Belle (Wayne Wilkes, Taree): “I’m very happy with how she’s progressed since her last run in the (Newcastle) Newmarket, she just seems to be stepping up to where she needs to be. She was only beaten three and a half lengths in a Group race which puts her in good stead for this race. We should be in the first half of the field, she handles any going, and she’s still on the up. She had a dash up on Tuesday and the rest of the week she’s been trot and cantering, she goes better without too much work.’’

16. Lady Mironton (Wayne Carroll, Wagga Wagga): “She trialled well since the Qualifier and I’ve been happy with her work since. I’d say she’s as good as we can have her. She’s probably a 1600m-2000m horse so she’d start to look for further if I gave her another run. She’s a mare that jumps and goes forward and we won’t be changing the way she races. I think she is good enough, but I think she is going to need luck in running to get as soft a run as we possibly can. Her price as far as I’m concerned is ridiculous.’’

All the fields, form and replays for Day 1 of The Championships at Royal Randwick

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