By Brad Gray
Lautaro prevailed in a thrilling finish of the Albury Country Championship Qualifier (1400m) to book his spot in the final at Royal Randwick.
In a driving finish, Lautaro beat Forever Newyork who also booked a place to compete on the first day of The Championships (1 April). Race favourite Challenge Accepted finished with a rush from the tail to place third with a brave Ruark swamped on the post to run fourth.
“It’s incredible. What can you say?!” said Lautaro’s overjoyed trainer Andrew Dale.
“To get this leg up and an opportunity with a nice horse gives you the chance to dream and that’s what it’s all about.
“We thought it was a nice kick off point for him and we put a little bit more work in him for a stayer first-up 1400m than I normally would because of the prize money but his mission this campaign was the Wagga Cup, and still is the Wagga Cup.
“I was pretty confident. The markets probably didn’t reflect that because he is a 2000m plus horse but racing history says that good stayers can sprint well fresh and he did that.
“We won’t do much with him now. Just nice long walks, swims and take it really easy to keep that sprint in his legs. The big track (at Randwick) will suit. Jockey Nick Souquet brought the same confidence into the race with the former New Zealand galloper impressing in his lead up.
“His work up to this has been nothing short of sensational. He has been running black-type times on the track and I thought if I can get him smothered and cuddle him as long as I can, he could run a really good sectional,” said Souquet.
“I got stuck a little wide going to the first corner but I was in my rhythm and I was following the second horse so I was happy.”