By Geoff Newling
Strictly Concert might just play his way into Country Championships contention when the Tamworth gelding lines up in Friday’s $20,000 Country Championship Preview Class 4 Handicap (1300m).
The seven-year-old gelding son of Oratorio, trained by Mark Mason, has won four of his 19 starts but hasn’t run since last October when he was fourth to Greg Bennett’s Pro Consul in an open 1400m at Scone.
Mason has also been enjoying a good run stablemate De La Hoya. He won at Tamworth last Monday, earning a crack at the 5 March Country Championship qualifier at Scone that Mason hopes Strictly Concert will also make. Mason also won the inaugural Stacks Law Firm Tamworth Walcha Lightning on Friday.
“Any trainer travelling to Scone will know their horse will have a chance. We’ve got a beautiful racing surface,” Scone Race Club CEO Heath Courtney said.
Invienna recently broke a track record at Scone and is one of three Greg Bennett horses entered in Friday’s Preview. The other two are all Summer Long and Sassaby.
Also launching a Country Championship tilt is Tamworth trainer Cody Morgan, who has nominated unbeaten Art D’Amour for Friday’s Country Championships Preview.
The four-year-old gelding has had just three starts for wins at Gunnedah, Armidale and Newcastle.
“It takes a good horse to go through their classes, no matter where it is,” Courtney said.
“And he did start favourite at his last start (at Newcastle’s Beaumont track) and won by 3.8 lengths too.”
Muswellbrook trainer Mark Schmetzer is another looking for far greater spoils with four-year-old gelding Whirlwind Ascent. The son of Artie Schiller has had eight starts for two wins. He won his maiden at Mudgee and then picked up a second win at Tamworth before heading to Canterbury and running third to Sunny Fame, who was engaged in this afternoon’s Country Championship qualifier at Grafton.
“He came from eighth at Canterbury, pretty good effort that,” Courtney said.