By Ray Hickson
It's billed as the strongest qualifier in the history of the Country Championships, check out nothing but quotes from the trainers of every runner in the $150,000 HNWRA Country Championships Qualifier (1400m) at Tamworth on Sunday.
1. Bobbing (SCRATCHED).
2. Pat’s Nipper (trainer Cody Morgan): "I think (jockey) Andrew Mallyon can probably take the credit, he got the perfect run (at Grafton on Tuesday) to be able to back up and he’s drawn well. He’s come through the run well, he’s a horse we know really well and if he’s bouncing out of his box on Saturday morning he’ll take his place."
3. Mahalangur (SCRATCHED).
4. Over And Above (SCRATCHED).
5. Beauty Best (trainer Melanie O’Gorman): "Hindsight is a great thing but if I had my time again last year I would have done things differently, I would have given him one or two runs before the Qualifier. I learnt a lot about the horse, holding him up for five or six runs and he seemed to perform better the more runs I gave him. He didn’t hit peak form until two or three runs in when he ran second in the Guyra Cup and was only narrowly beaten in the Tamworth Cup by Unbiased. I put him away thinking I would do things differently, I know I have a sound horse and a happy horse and I feel I can keep him up for longer. I’m hoping changing my program slightly into the race it will give him a slightly better chance.”
6. Hit The Target (trainer Stephen Jones): "He won that Highway then the other day (at Canterbury) he went nicely, we wanted to give him a solid hit out and he raced on speed and gave a good blow after. It would have topped him off beautifully. Grant Buckley rides the track well and hopefully he can do the job. I think he will be thereabouts, he ran third in it last year and drew 17. He's entitled to be in the field no doubt."
7. Herzegovina (trainer Stephen Jones): "His runs have been good, the other day he got lost a little bit but he has a few runs under his belt and will go into it nicely. You have to ride for luck a bit, I'll leave it to the jockey, and see where he lands and if he can get in a bit. We will be looking to go forward, we won't be letting him come out last especially not at Tamworth."
8. Heaven’s High (trainer Stirling Osland): "She's an open class sprinter in the country and has the speed to be able to do it in the short course races. She has run well up to a mile so we think she shapes up really well. She's won three of her last five, she's been flying this prep and looks to be coming in really strong. She's ready to run the trip and she will be running a strong race for sure."
9. Charlotte’s Heart (trainer Brett Cavanough): "I wouldn't be making too many thoughts at the moment, we're drawn off the track and I'm not sure where it is all going to sit by Sunday."
10. Ligulate (trainer Cody Morgan): "The worst case scenario for him would have been drawing barrier one or two. He probably doesn’t want it too wet, I don’t think he appreciated how wet it was in Sydney. It was always the plan to be third-up, blinkers on, home track. He probably has the best credentials to win the race. He’ll get back in the second half, I think the draw is good for him and Sam (Clenton) has options. I can see him being three deep but I don’t think that’s a disadvantage to him making the final.’’
11. Galapagos (SCRATCHED).
12. Emanuela (trainer Paul Messara): "She didn’t handle the wet track (at Muswellbrook), she needs a dry track. She’s not effective at all on a wet track. The 1400m is great, 1400m to a mile is probably where we need to be and it can be a tough run race. She won’t have any trouble running it right out."
13. Fritz’s Factor (trainer Rodney Northam): “I think she can run well, we will need a bit of luck from the barrier. It was a good run at Canterbury, it was a nice hit out, she got to the outside into the quicksand part of the track and finished off okay. The main thing was that she relaxed and ran the 1250m out, it puts her in good stead to run the 1400m at Tamworth. I think she will run it, all prep we have been working on getting her to relax. She would be a bit suspect at 1400m if she didn’t relax but if she does I can’t see why she couldn’t be in the finish.
14. Luna Mia (trainer Paul Messara): "She was unlucky first-up, the way the race was run didn’t suit her. She can sit closer to the speed here, and as a result she should be close to the mark and I think she should be right in the finish. She’s a very good horse, certainly good enough to be competitive in this type of field. I don’t think it is as strong as the Kosciuszko but it is a different trip. It’s a tricky track, barriers play a big role, and luck in running, so we are going to need a bit of luck. We just need to slot in somewhere not too far away from the action.''
15. Barbass (trainer Cameron Crockett): "His concern is that he's normally better second-up but this is the first time he's raced when he's been able to breathe properly first-up, he's had a wind problem all his life. He has a stack of ability when he's right, he's just been a hard horse to get right. The 1400m is an ideal distance, his two best runs of his career without winning were at 1400m and one was on a heavy track. It is a fair task from that barrier but this is his last chance, he's had 19 starts. He has good gate speed for such a big horse. Who knows, drawn wide at the end of the day if the track is wet they might be coming down the middle. Sometimes you think you're dealt the hard card and it turns out you're winning the lottery.''
16. Emperor’s Star (trainer Brett Cavanough): "I wouldn't be making too many thoughts at the moment, we're drawn off the track and I'm not sure where it is all going to sit by Sunday."
17. Trophies Galore (trainer Andrew Robinson): "She’s come through her last run terrifically. Her second up form is terrific and we are quietly confident. Straight after she won the TAB Highway at Newcastle we were aiming at this race. I think there will be a bit of speed in the race, if we can be sitting midfield and find the back of a horse and get a cart into it she should be right in the finish. She deserves a go at it and I think her presence will be felt."
18E. Whiteley (trainer Cody Morgan): "He’s going really well, he’s there in a tough race if a run comes and he probably doesn’t want it much worse than a soft 5. He looks well placed in the other race, but if he does gain a start you wouldn’t knock back the opportunity.''