By Greg Prichard
Different fortunes at the barrier draw left trainer Kris Lees finding it hard to split Juventus and Enchanted Heart as his best chance in the $150,000 Polytrack Provincial Championships Qualifier at Kembla Grange on Saturday.
Juventus drew 15 and will start from 13 in a 16-horse field if the two emergencies come out.
Jockey Mitchell Bell will face a challenge from the 1400m start to get across or at least get cover if caught wide before they reach the sweeping bend that goes all the way around to the home straight.
Enchanted Heart, to be ridden by Andrew Gibbons, fared better in the draw with 10 and would come in to eight.
"I thought Juventus was probably my best chance pre-barrier draw, but there's not much between him and Enchanted Heart now," Lees said.
"We'll see where Juventus ends up in the run from there. I thought his last run at Randwick was better than ninth looks on paper.
"I believe you've got to be a genuine Saturday horse to be getting through to the final and I think he is that."
Enchanted Heart wins at Dubbo on March 7
Five-year-old gelding Juventus was never better than four wide from an outside draw in a Benchmark 88 Handicap over 1200m at Randwick on February 29 and was six wide turning for home, but still finished doggedly to only be beaten 3.1 lengths in the race won by Trumbull.
"Enchanted Heart can't do much more than she's done so far in her career and I think she's got a good hope," Lees said.
"She's been beating older horses and won particularly well at her last two starts, including a pretty good $50,000 Bobs Bonus race at Dubbo."
The challenge for Enchanted Heart is that she's a filly taking on older horses in an event where being a three-year-old offers no allowance at the weight conditions.
Enchanted Heart has only had seven starts, but she has zoomed through the grades with wins at country tracks Moree, Tuncurry, Taree and Dubbo. Fillies and mares receive the same 2kg allowance and as a Class 4 horse that brings Enchanted Heart down from 57.5kg to 55.5kg.
"Look, they haven't got a great record in this event the three-year-olds," Lees said.
"They don't get any relief for being three like they do in other races, but it's a nice enough option for her and she deserves a crack at the good prizemoney. She's tough and she's handled her recent racing well."
Lees will produce one quarter of the field on Saturday. His other two runners are Occupy (Samantha Clenton), which is better suited over longer but is bound to be finishing on, and Frankely Awesome (Jeff Penza), which is resuming from a long spell following a strong autumn campaign last year.
Frankely Awesome, who opened $5.50 equal favourite with TAB in the Qualifier, finished second in the Vinery Stud Stakes over 2000m at Rosehill and the Australian Oaks over 2400m at Randwick - both races won by Verry Elleegant.
"Occupy wants further, but I've tried to keep him fresh for this," Lees said.
"He's still a chance of qualifying.
"Frankely Awesome . . . I'd say it will be too short for her. You won't see the best of her until she gets to 2000m, but she's got to start off somewhere this campaign and it's a race in which she gets treated well at the weights."
The first three placegetters will qualify for the $500,000 Polytrack Provincial Championships Final over 1400m at Randwick on April 11.