By Ray Hickson
The pressure to qualify for the Country Championships is still there but Queanbeyan trainer Todd Blowes isn’t feeling so weighed down by expectation as he takes Noble Boy to Muswellbrook on Sunday.
There’s no unbeaten record to protect, just a job to be done by finishing in the top two in the $50,000 Wild Card (1280m) and Blowes said he’ll offer no excuse if Noble Boy doesn’t make it to next month’s final.
Especially with champion jockey Hugh Bowman making the trip to ride the four-year-old on Sunday.
“I knew there was some hype around the horse but that day at Goulburn opened my eyes about what everyone was expecting of him,’’ Blowes said.
“We just go up there now as a contender and do our best.
“Hugh and I spoke after he won at Warwick Farm and I asked if he was to get to Randwick would he be interested in riding him and he was keen so it’s great to have him on.’’
Noble Boy runs fourth in the Goulburn Qualifier on March 2
Noble Boy lost his unbeaten record as he finished a shock fourth in the South-East Qualifier (1400m) at Goulburn.
With plenty of time to reflect on it, Blowes concludes it just wasn’t meant to be on the day. He said he felt the track was a bit on the firm side and certainly doesn’t blame jockey Jess Taylor.
“So many little things just didn’t do to plan,’’ he said.
“Barrier one wasn’t ideal and the track was a hell of a lot harder than I thought it would be.
“For 48 hours after the race he had a fair bit of heat in his joints but since the Tuesday after the race he’s been fine.’’
As a beaten odds-on favourite it was naturally a disappointment to all concerned that Noble Boy didn’t perform to his best.
But the Punter’s Intelligence data from the Qualifier suggests his run still had some merit as he clocked the second fastest last 600m (34.66) of the race.
Blowes said had Noble Boy qualified as planned at Goulburn the gelding would have barrier trialled this weekend given there’s an extra week until the Final than in previous years.
Having completed his major work on Monday, he’ll travel the horse to Muswellbrook on Wednesday and likely give him a look at the track at the end of the week.
“He had a really solid gallop with Up Trumpz, a really handy horse of Joe Cleary’s, at Queanbeyan (on Monday) and he handled him easily,’’ Blowes said.
“I’m never overly confident, I just know the horse is well and his work has been outstanding.
“Hopefully they just run along a little bit more that will help him.’’
Noble Boy sits at $5 second favourite in TAB’s all-on market on the $500,000 Newhaven Park Country Championships Final (1400m) on April 6 having been deposed as favourite by Grafton winner La Scopa.
The Wild Card has a handy record of producing a horse competitive at Randwick – in 2015 Artlee won at Muswellbrook then won the Final; in 2017 After All That ran second in both races. And a year ago another placegetter.
“We saw Don’t Give A Damn win last year then get beaten by a good horse in Victorem in the final,’’ Blowes said.
“Going back to the 1280m doesn’t concern me at all, and the 1400m isn’t going to be an issue for him at Randwick.’’