By Brenton Le Grand
The Entertainment Grounds at Gosford will play host to the $150,000 Polytrack Provincial Championships qualifier this Saturday, in what will double as the St. Patricks Day race meeting.
With a strong eight-race card, the focus will be on the final event as local trainers try and qualify their chargers for the lucrative $500,000 Provincial Championships Final to be run at Royal Randwick on April 14.
Kristen Buchanan has two runners in the qualifying heat, receiving mixed luck from the barrier gods. Nicobelle ($34 on TAB fixed odds) has drawn well in gate four, but Buchanan’s other hopeful Echo Effect ($12) has drawn barrier 18 and will need a peach of a ride from Serg Lisnyy.
“In these big-field qualifier heats they tend to go a crazy tempo up front, but Serg may have to roll forward from that draw,” said Buchanan.
“He’s such a quirky horse and can be tardy at the start sometimes, so we’ll just have to see where he ends up in the run. He is twice Group-placed and certainly has a bit of quality about him, but this is a pretty hot field!”
Buchanan’s other runner Niccobelle has drawn better, but may not have the class of his stablemate. “Hopefully he can sit just off the speed, and have something to give on the line,” Buchanan said.
Other highlights on the day include the Biggs Air Conditioning Benchmark 64 where Gosford trainer Angela Davies saddles up the topweight Dylan’s Dynasty ($5.50). This Dylan Thomas five-year-old is first-up coming off two nice trials at Gosford and Rosehill.
Davies also has Single And Free accepted as first emergency for the qualifier but is doubtful as it is running at Kembla Grange today. Davies has had an amazing run of late, producing 12 winners from her last 50 runners at a very healthy strike rate of 24%.
Another local trainer Jim Louizos has the interestingly-named Donald Krupt ($23) running in the Wyong Rugby League Club Group Maiden over 1000m. Four-year-old Krupt gelding debuts here, following a handy trial at his home track on February 28.
There will be plenty to do on course, with a craft beer van, street food, TAB virtual racing experience, kids activities, and performances from the State and National Champion Irish dancers. St. Patrick's Day VIP Marquee tickets are still available for $49 per person and will feature live music by Steamboat Hollow and DJ Steve Pike.
With over $350,000 in prizemoney on offer, it shapes to be an extremely competitive meeting at The Entertainment Grounds this Saturday. Free shuttle buses will be available from Gosford station. Gates open at 12pm with the first race scheduled for 1:14pm.