Leading local trainer John Sprague hopes his in-form mare Pradnya is freshen enough to spearhead a profitable day for his stable when she lines up in Friday's $70,000 Arrowfield Queen Of The North Hcp (1200m) at Port Macquarie.
The Queen Of The North headlines the Port Macquarie Race Club's eight-race Showcase meeting which $280,000 in prizemoney is on offer.
Pradnya is the only Port Macquarie-trained runner in the feature event, a Benchmark 75 for fillies and mares, and boasts a consistent record on her home track with four wins and seven placings from 18 starts there.
However, Sprague's major worry on Friday is that his mare is dropping back to 1200m after her last three starts over 1510m, 1609m and 1500m. She scored over 1510m at Port Macquarie three starts ago on 22 November, missed the start and failed over 1609m at Taree on 22 December then bounced back last start to finish second to Dixie Lad over 1500m at Port Macquarie on 7 January.
"She's in good form and is on her home track where she races best, but the drop back to 1200m is the major issue with her on Friday," said Sprague. "If the race was over 1500m I'd just about declare her, but it's 1200m.
"But the prizemoney for this race is too good to ignore so I always had the Queen Of The North in mind for her. I gave her a couple of weeks off out at Wauchope after her last run to freshen her up for the 1200m.
"She's been back with me for two weeks and seems to have thrived with those few weeks off. I just hope she's fresh enough and the race pans out well so she can get home over them."
Sprague's apprentice Jesse Graham will claim a 2kg allowance on Pradnya who will carry 55.5kg. Graham has already won two races on the seven-year-old mare who drew barrier five in Friday's race.
Trainer Kris Lees' hope Star Reflection drew well in gate four but Kim Waugh's Annatime (barrier 9) and Greg Hickman's Phoebe's Lass (11) both have awkward draws.
Sprague also has three other genuine chances at Friday's meeting - Shelley Beach Road (race two), Ibelieveinmiracles (race five) and Laurentian (race six). "The Showcase prizemoney on offer on Friday is terrific and it would be great to win some of it," he said.
"I think mine should all race well. Laurentian is coming off a last-start win at Port Macquarie and should go well again. Ibelieveinmiracles is also racing well and Shelley Beach Road is resuming but is a filly I have high expectations off.
"She had two starts as a two-year-old last year for two seconds against a couple of smart ones."
Shelley Beach Road made her debut at Kempsey on 28 June last year, finishing runner-up to Charlee Bear who had won four of her previous five starts. Shelley Beach Road then ran at Grafton on 7 July and was beaten by Zumikon who then went on to win the $47,000 2YO Plate on Grafton Cup day.
The rail for Friday's meeting will be in the true position and the track is currently rated a Good 4.