By Greg Prichard
After five qualifiers there are 15 contenders aiming to join Sure And Fast, Danish Twist, Maryore, Serene Miss and Bobbing on the honour roll of the $400,000 Polytrack Provincial Championships Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Here's nothing but quotes from the trainer of every runner!
1. McCormack (trainer Tracey Bartley, Wyong): "He's coming through the right form-line and he's a tough horse who's going to lap it up if it gets wetter. He's won over 1400m at Randwick. We've planned for this race all along and he's gone terrific. He won at Warwick farm and then ran a close second in the qualifier at Kembla Grange and the horse that won that (Electric Girl) is favourite and he's $16. I think they've got that wrong. He's in a really good space and I couldn't be happier with him. He doesn't show you a lot at home, gets around the stables like an old stock-horse, but that's just him. He'll be ready to pounce from about sixth or seventh."
2. Through The Cracks (trainer Angela Davies, Gosford): "I think he gets his opportunity. He's had quite a few hiccups through this prep, always something niggling, but I'm confident we've sorted everything out and that he'll turn up 100 per cent on Saturday. The 1400m is what he's looking for now. He pulled up quite big after his second to Asharani in a qualifier. He was only about 90 per cent fit, so he's got quite a bit of improvement left in him, but he still ran the fastest last 600 in about 32.9. James McDonald rode him in a trial last week and was very pleased with him. He ran super and hit the line hard behind Happy Clapper."
3. General Soho (trainer Paul Perry, Newcastle): "He's come out of a very strong heat and he's drawn well, which is a big help. Probably the negative is he's got equal-top weight of 57.5kg and he's not a big horse and if he had 55kg I'd be thinking he's got a great chance, so under those circumstances the least taxing run he can get the better. Then he should be able to produce something at the end. Hoping to have a nice run just a bit off the pace. If he's ridden quietly I don't think the 1400m will worry him. Some of his races at night meetings at Canterbury he's got back a bit and finished strongly."
4. Animate (trainer Kris Lees, Newcastle): "He's won up to 1600m, which is great for 1400m at Randwick. He's a three-year-old, so it's difficult at the weights under the conditions of the race, but it was always going to be worth going around in this series because he's a progressive horse with plenty of upside. He'll get a lovely run from a favourable barrier and I can easily see him running a big race. Three-year-olds haven't got a good record in this race, but there's no reason a good one can't win it. Didn't surprise me how well he ran in the qualifier. I think Tom Marquand will suit the horse, he's a world-class rider."
5. Oxford Tycoon (trainer Kim Waugh, Wyong): "Copped a few bumps in his first qualifier and finished great in his second one, when he ran second to make the final. I think the 1400m will suit him down to the ground. He was very strong through the line over 1350m at Newcastle, taking ground off the winner every stride, and he's done really well since. I think we might get a bit of a soft track and he can handle that, so that's another positive. Last time out was his first run over longer than 1200m and we always thought he would get further. Barrier eight, I'll leave it to Josh Parr. The horse is pretty versatile."
6. Oakfield Captain (trainer Damien Lane, Wyong): "He's a very honest gelding. He drew wide in both the qualifiers he ran in and did a really good job when he finished third in his second one. He raced wide and it was a good, tough effort. He'll improve from that run, too. He'll try all day. He should be cherry ripe third up from a spell and with the soft draw he's going to get the right run in the race. He'll be positive out of the gates and I'm sure he'll be in the first three or four. It will just depend on the tempo of the race exactly where he ends up, but the plan will be to go forward, for sure."
7. Designated (trainer Kristen Buchanan, Wyong): "You've got to be impressed by a horse to run him in a series like this as a three-year-old and I am. He's very together mentally and he's very versatile, which is why he's made it to the final. He's a horse that's been able to lead over 1000m and win and also settle back over 1600m and win, which is great because I find in this type of race all bets are off and you never know for sure what's going to happen speed-map wise. We've drawn the car park and I'm not thrilled by that. I'd love, say, barrier seven, but he can adapt and we'll work with how the cards fall from there."
8. Celer (trainer Kim Waugh, Wyong): "Finished on very well in the same race as my other runner here, Oxford Tycoon, after getting held up in a little bit of traffic in the last 200m. Without that trouble he may have run third instead of fourth. I'm very pleased with him. We just don't want it to get too heavy because he doesn't like it that heavy. I expect improvement off his last run and he has done well, so he's ready to go. He runs a strong 1400m and will do it best with cover. He's got a great turn of foot, so he should get a nice run from barrier five and let loose in the straight."
9. Great Danger (trainer Kris Lees, Newcastle): "He raced wide in his qualifier and fought on. I gave him another run at Muswellbrook after that and he drew bad that day and went back, which in hindsight was a mistake. He'll go forward from the wide draw here, be ridden in a more positive manner which he seems to react well to. He just needs a bit of luck in the early stages. He'll roll forward and hope to get across or at least get cover wide."
10. Asharani (trainer Kris Lees, Newcastle): "Ran great time when she won her qualifier over 1200m at Newcastle. She let down really well in the straight and she's comfortable on all surfaces, so I think she'll run well again. This is her best distance I'd say, the 1400m. From a good draw I'd like to see her hold midfield if she can. It just depends on the way the race is run but Brenton Avdulla will work that out. He knows her well. The big, spacious track is to her liking and she's won over the 1400m at Randwick. She's the pick of mine."
11. Stella Sea Sun (trainer Kris Lees, Newcastle): "Chased hard for second in her qualifier. She was really good that day and I could easily see her running a good race here with a bit of luck. We gave her a try at stronger company after the qualifier. It was a little bit beyond her at this stage and she got back on the inside, but she bounced out of that well and I think the 1400m suits her. She's run some good races at Randwick, won over 1300m and second over 1400m. From barrier nine I'd say she'll be forward of midfield."
12. Electric Girl (trainer Gwenda Markwell, Kembla Grange): "The horse is in great condition. Her win in the qualifier at Kembla was outstanding, coming from a wide gate. We love to see her racing with a fortnight gap, but this time it's three weeks going into the final. Yes, she's a three-year-old filly taking on some very nice upcoming horses from Kris Lees and a few good older horses, which is a bit of a task, but her good gate and Glen Boss back on top are big positives. She has a very good record with Glen riding her and he likes her too. The distance is not a problem for Electric Girl. We prefer a soft track for her."
13. Oakfield Missile (trainer Damien Lane, Wyong): "She ran fourth in the final last year and I thought she ran super then. Didn't get much luck. We had a bit of a plan from that day to aim her at this race again. We ran her in a few strong races last prep and although she was going well, nothing went right for her in the run. The plan was always to have her back ready for the qualifier first-up and we'd won first-up in the past with her. She over-raced a bit early and had to circle the field and I thought her win was full of merit. She'll only improve going into the final. If the tempo suits she'll be hitting the line pretty hard."
14. Enchanted Heart (trainer Kris Lees, Newcastle): "Kept chasing when third in her qualifier. She's won half of her races and a couple of those wins have been over 1400m. She's only three and just might be getting there a year too early, but it wouldn't surprise to see her run a race. Ridden quietly from the wide gate, ridden to hit the line, she should run well. It was always worth going around in this series to see what she could do. She'll get back and need a decent tempo to help her come through the field, but she could easily show up."
15. Moana Jewel (trainer Tracey Bartley, Wyong): "Can't fault her form, there's a good argument to say she should have won three straight. Very unlucky in the Newcastle qualifier, she should have won, and went to Hawkesbury and I thought it was happening all over again when she got in a bad spot, but she sprinted terrific to win. She's in a good space and I can't wait until Kerrin McEvoy gets to the outside on her because she can really explode with a sprint out wide. I can't fault her. We've made it to the final with two live chances and with only 20 in work I think the stable has done a great job."