By Ray Hickson
The South East Country Championships Qualifier (1400m), originally scheduled for Nowra, takes place at Moruya on Sunday 16 February.
Here's nothing but quotes from the trainers of all 14 runners, plus a couple of emergencies, in the $150,000 feature.
1. Common Purpose (trainer John Bateman): "He had a shot at it last year and he was running a fair race and took a gap where there wasn’t enough room. He’s started to race himself into a bit of form, he put in a couple of ordinary ones, so I’m pretty happy with that. He’s drawn a good alley so he shouldn’t be too far off them.''
2. Greenspan (trainer John Bateman): "He’s hit a bit of a purple patch, after the won the other day I said we had to give him a shot because he’s out of Highway class now. The way he’s been racing I don’t see why he wouldn’t be a good chance in it. There’s not many that have the form he has going into it. He won with a bit of authority at Randwick, he probably won a bit better than I expected. I didn’t expect him to sit three deep and just toy with them. Samanatha (Clenton) knows him and I’m pretty happy with the way he’s going.''
3. Assault’n’bathory (trainer Danielle Seib): “When he won first-up he showed he could win on a good and heavy track and we knew we were in with a bit of a chance. He ran really well last time, he probably just got outsprinted against that calibre of horse. It was testing and trying conditions too. In hindsight it's a fantastic move that he's had the two runs under his belt, it was a good hitout for him the other day because you want a rock hard fit horse going into this qualifier. He's come through the run fantastically, he's never looked better."
4. Garros (trainer Greg Stephens): "He’s a very nice horse, I wish I’d had a crack at it last year. We’ve tried to set him for it first-up. When we first got him we set him for a first-up win over 1400m at Moruya and he executed that well. We’re pretty confident we have him right again. He used to get back a bit and tended to relax a bit too much so we took the blinkers off to get him to roll a bit. We seem to have ironed everything out and he’s a 100 per cent."
5. Notation (SCRATCHED).
6. Julian Rock (trainer Jean Dubois): "He can be unreliable but he has put two good runs together. It’s five weeks with no race and we missed a trial on Monday so we trained him at home. It’s not ideal but it’s a good thing he’s running on a track that’s not going to be that heavy. He’s not good when we have him in front, he does a bit too much, he doesn’t like being stuck in traffic so we will try to ride him somewhere that will suit him."
7. Al Mah Haha (trainer Tash Burleigh): "He raced a lot better than we were anticipating first-up, he’s a more mature horse and a bit more tractable so it was nice to see him put in that really good run to give us confidence. We’ve been nursing him along to get him here, I didn’t want to overdo him, and he’s looking a lot fitter since that run and the trial. With the change of track the wider barrier will suit him, he will need that little bit of room and luck and we’re just hoping he will get through the going."
8. Safe Landing (trainer Kurt Goldman): "He had a fair bit of time off after last year's Final but he's had a good foundation. He was meant to run in the Highway that was called off at Warwick Farm and target this third-up. But he has been in work for quite a while and he's quite fit. Having Sam Clipperton back on board, who knows him well, is a bonus. I do think the 1400m sees him out so we're going to have to be a bit more conservative. In a race that has good genuine tempo he should get the run of the race one or two pairs back, he will present like the winner and it will depend on how the race unfolds after that.''
9. Show Me The Honey (trainer John Bateman): "His first-up run was terrific and I thought he was in for a good campaign. Since then he hasn’t been bad but he hasn’t had a lot of luck in the run. He drops 5kg in weight and he’s better off drawn in the middle so he’s not going to be stuck in on the fence. I took the blinkers off him, I don’t know if they were doing much good when he was getting stuck in behind horses.''
10. Coup De Main (trainer Matthew Dale): "If it was a heavy 10 at Nowra it was going to be a non-event from barrier one for him, impossible to get where he needs to be, so moving to Moruya definitely gives us a better chance. I was happy with his trial then his first-up run was a bit rushed because we needed a run to allow two weeks into this. I had my suspicions he wouldn't like a tight turning track and that's pretty much what Hugh Bowman said, the style of racing at Canterbury he never got comfortable and the run wasn't as bad as it looks on paper. Even though it was a bit deflating, we were hoping to run top four, he has pulled up well and done everything right since."
11. Irish Songs (trainer Kurt Goldman): "He has a horrible racing style but I guess that's been developed by us trying to teach the horse to settle and constantly drawing bad gates. He often ends up towards the rear of the field and needs a lot of luck. If he gets the breaks he's definitely the horse that can run over the top of them late in the piece."
12. Lolita Gold (trainer Neil Osborne): "It was a fantastic run (first-up), she nearly should have won. She’s come on from that run for sure, the better track surface will suit us a bit better too. I think she will get back a little with the pace but she should get a good run from that gate. I think she is a really good chance, she couldn’t be much better than she is."
13. Moore Euros (co-trainer Luke Clarke): "She hasn’t finished worse than fourth in her 13 runs so she’s pretty consistent. I’ve always thought she would get 1400m, a couple of the jockeys have said she will get over more ground. We missed a bit of work with the bushfires (before last run) so I was happy. It’s not like she dropped off, she kept having a go. I wasn’t real sure about a heavy track, I gave her a gallop at Moruya last week and it was a soft track and we were happy with her."
14. Girls Are Ready (trainer Joe Cleary): "Her second-up form is really good and the wet track is going to be a massive benefit for us. She’s ready to rock and roll, Jess (Taylor) rides her well and she’s in good at the weights. I was a shade disappointed with her first-up run but she wasn’t wound right up. I can see her being midfield, I’ll get Jess to give her a dig up, and if we can get to the outside and have one crack at them hopefully we see the real Girls Are Ready."
15. Hemmerle (trainer Jamie Stewart): "He’s found form at the right time. Now it has moved to his home track it has to increase his chances and I’m happy with him going into it. It was a really good run fresh and he should bounce off that, the 1400m will really suit. I give him a knockout chance at odds."
16. Peyton Place (trainer Greg Stephens): "Both times he went up to Sydney he was a bit unlucky. The first time the weather was extreme and he didn’t run too bad a race and the next start we drew the car park at Rosehill. We were happy he came out of the other side of it well and his last run was good."
17. Black Wand (trainer Kurt Goldman): "He's held a fair bit of residual fitness from the Country Classic. We deliberately wanted to run him in this race first-up over 1400m and I'm very happy with his progress."