By Ray Hickson
The Qualifiers have been run and won, the final 16 decided. Who will join Artlee, Clearly Innocent, Free Standing, Victorem and Noble Boy on the honour roll of the $400,000 Newhaven Park Country Championships Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday?
Here's nothing but quotes from the trainer (and one jockey) of every runner.
1. Bobbing (trainer Bernie Kelly, Scone): “Koby knows the horse and how he needs to be ridden. He needs to get his momentum going and his breathing right, I’ll stick by the fact that’s the best way to ride him. He’s probably on the same sort of fitness level as he was for last year’s Championships. He didn’t look like he was quite screwed down (at Muswellbrook), you could see there was room for improvement. To the eye he looks like he has come through it all right, he should run a forward race but it’s like anything with backmarkers you need luck.’’
2. Two Big Fari (trainer Todd Howlett, Muswellbrook): “He’s a go forward horse so the barrier doesn’t matter a heap. He’s a gutsy horse, every time he has stepped out he’s done what we have asked of him. It’d be lovely if he can get across and get a nice bit of cover just behind the leaders but I’m sure Brenton will have a plan. He pulled up terrific from Muswellbrook, he’s an easy horse to train and I don’t think a soft track will bother him.”
3. Healing Hands (trainer Gayna Williams, Bathurst): “I was really pleased with that (Kensington) run moreso for the fact it was in metropolitan company. With all due respect he’d only been against country horses until then. It was more of a test and I was really happy with the result, he found the line well so it was a good run. He’s a horse that needs galloping room, if he gets in behind traffic I don’t know whether it will suit him either. He needs to build momentum and he lengthens rather than quickens but it’s certainly a better barrier than drawing off the track. We’re hoping he runs a good race, pulls up well, and comes home safely. I think it is a very open race and you wouldn’t be surprised if any of them won.”
4. Casino Mondial (trainer Michael Byers, Taree): “It’s been an excellent preparation, everything has worked out perfectly. I wanted him to run in a mile 18 days before the race, a mile at Taree is like 1400m at Randwick and I wanted a fit horse going into the Final. He can be sharp out of the gates, in the Qualifier he wasn’t quick out and he got back because he nearly lost the jockey. He had to get going again and then was trapped deep. He worked up lovely on Saturday morning and then Tuesday morning on the grass. I’m pretty sure he will perform to his best.”
5. Sneak Preview (trainer Kody Nestor, Dubbo): “He’s had a good preparation into it, and I thought there was a touch of improvement in him after Coonamble and he’s shown that in his work. Ideally I would like him anywhere from fourth to eighth in the run, I don’t want to get too far off them but I’ll leave that to Tim who has ridden him before. He should get an economical run from where he is drawn, I think he is in with a chance. He has a good record, all you can do is win and he’s starting to mature into a nice horse.”
6. Julian Rock (trainer Jean Dubois, Goulburn. Comments jockey Jean Van Overmeire): “He felt really good, fresh and happy, in the trial and he’s where he needed to be. It’s a big field and you can’t really go out with a set plan, as long as we can get cover around midfield somewhere that’d be great. He enjoys a wet track and he has a good record at Randwick, I think that will be on his side. If we can follow the right horse he will put his best foot forward.”
7. Ligulate (trainer Cody Morgan, Tamworth): “There was the option to give him a trial or a run but I kept it similar to when I first got the horse with four weeks of ticking over and gallops at home on the course proper leading into when he won at Rosehill. The barrier isn’t great, I’m glad we have James McDonald, everything else I’m pretty happy with. He’s going to have to go back I’d imagine, the map doesn’t look great for him. When he draws a good gate he can race midfield or three pairs back but from there we are either going to be very wide in the run or back a long way. He’ll have to be at his very best to overcome it.”
8. Al Mah Haha (trainer Tash Burleigh, Goulburn): “It was a nice run (at Kembla) and nice to run second to a filly that then won the Provincial heat. We’re excited to get up there and have a crack at our second chance. It’s great to be able to draw a relatively nice barrier, it should give Sam more of an option to be wherever he wants to be instead of being out wide and having to cut across. He’s had a great preparation leading into the race, it’s a hot race and it will be good to see how he fares in it.”
9. Plonka (trainer Warren Gavenlock, Coffs Harbour): “I’ve been lucky enough to go to the beach at Coffs Harbour and get plenty of work into him and the club has been good. Grafton race club have allowed me to go there and gallop too. We’re as ready as we can be. It’s a perfect draw for him, he should begin well and get a gun run. If the race pans out how you’d expect with a bit of pace early from a couple, we should be running about third or fourth and, if the split comes at the top of the hill, if we’re good enough we are there."
10. Hit The Target (trainer Stephen Jones, Scone): “Luck will play a part but our intention will be to go forward. He’s had a hard hit out with another horse a couple of times, he’s a very clean winded horse and doesn’t take a lot of work. He’s done well and I think with a couple of runs under his belt he will be putting his best foot forward.”
11. Fast Talking (trainer Kody Nestor, Dubbo): “He’s going to need luck. The horse is in top order and I thought his run at Coonamble had merit in it. He’s a different horse to Sneak Preview, he’s a horse I have to keep on fresh legs so three weeks between runs will suit. I’d like to see him in the three wide line with cover in midfield, a little bit of tempo would be ideal. I’ll leave it to Nash, on a wet track at Randwick it might be playing down the centre.”
12. Magnalane (trainer Jenny Graham, Port Macquarie): "He trialled at Gosford with blinkers and he trialled nicely so he’s good. I probably would have liked another run under his belt going into it but the right race wasn’t there so we decided to trial. A lot of the chances on paper have drawn out there with me and I think it will be ride it how you find it. I’d like it if we aren’t too far back and I am hoping we get a bit of rain which I feel will help his chances more. If we can get a good run in transit, without travelling deep, we hope he can strike late.”
13. Electrified (trainer Dean Mirfin, Bathurst): "It was a good run at Hawkesbury, it was the final hitout he needed to be 100 per cent for Saturday. Tactics wise I will leave it to Hugh, he’s a horse that generally races on the speed and Hugh elected to drag him back when he drew the car park at Mudgee so this time he has drawn well. We will probably see him race in a more forward position than we saw there. I think if you are spruiking Healing Hands you couldn’t be leaving this horse out. I would love to see a dry track, which I don’t think we will get, but other than that he is going there in great order.”
14. Gracie Belle (trainer Matthew Dunn, Murwillumbah): “The wetter the better for her, I’ve been smashed by wet tracks the last three years and I’ve finally got one that can handle it so bring it on. It was a fill in run at the Gold Coast and she ran well, probably as well as the winner in that race and it was a city class race even thought it was at the Coast. The concern would be a lack of tempo, if they don’t go fast, that was the issue at Grafton when they slowed and she got over racing. If she ended up three pairs back with good speed on it would be perfect.”
15. Sky Call (trainer Mitchell Beer, Albury): “Everything has fallen into place. I thought her hitout in between couldn’t have been any better against open handicap sprinters. She’s just come on so well. My sister (Ash) rides her all her work, she galloped last Friday morning and was of the opinion that was the best piece of work she has ever put in. Timing is everything, we are going into Saturday just full of confidence.’’
16. Bennelong Dancer (trainer Donna Scott, Albury): “She seems a bit more settled than she usually is and she travelled up well and settled in. I know it has been six weeks since her race but she is the sort of horse that likes a few weeks between runs but she had the trial at Wagga so she has been ticking over since then. Between Blaike (McDougall) and Danielle (Scott) who have been riding her work couldn’t be happier. Last year it was a soft 7 and she still ran third but I think she would be a length or two better on top of the ground. She normally begins well and I’m hoping to be midfield and get some cover. There’s the nice long straight at Randwick and it’s all up to her.”