A whopping 400,000 reasons to check out Country Championship qualifier

HERE'S HOPING: Orange-based trainer Brad Draper has nominated a couple of horses for the Country Championship Qualifier Showcase meeting at Dubbo.
HERE'S HOPING: Orange-based trainer Brad Draper has nominated a couple of horses for the Country Championship Qualifier Showcase meeting at Dubbo.

Sunday’s bumper meeting at Dubbo Turf Club, headlined by the $150,000 Western Districts Country Championship Qualifier, shapes as one of the biggest and best events at the track in sometime following the release of the nominations on Monday.

The club received 223 nominations for Sunday, which is also a Racing NSW showcase meeting with minimum prizemoney in each of the eight races being $30,000.

All up, there will be close to $400,000 on offer.

Towac Park trainers Brad Draper has thrown the hat of his bay gelding, Yu Jin, in the ring, as one of 36 nominations for the $30,000 maiden showcase plate.

Draper’s Eva Jean is also nominated, while Alison Smith and Lee Van Den Bos both have fair chances, Beau Hoffa and Diamond Costa nominated together in the showcase handicap.

Smith has Oywotzy and Strada Prince nominated in the benchmark 55 showcase handicap.

“The Gold Cup meeting is the closest thing to it in terms of racing but this will be the premier day of the year,” Turf Club general manager Vince Gordon said, before praising the nominations.

“It reflects on the facility, the track and the reliability of the track and the standard of racing will be really high.”

The Qualifier itself, to be run over 1400m, attracted 20 nominations.

Leading local trainers Peter Nestor, Justin Stanley, Mark Jones, Michael Mulholland, Frank Hayes, Darren Hyde and Garry and Dar Lunn all put forward chances, as did the likes of Narromine’s Kyle Kennedy, Nyngan’s Rodney Robb and Cecil Maxwell of Coonamble.

Nestor’s La La Loopsy is almost certain to be among the favourites after scoring two successive wins so far this preparation while Gordon also pointed to the likes of Stanley’s Coming In Hot, Jones’ Eagles Dare and the Allan Gibson-trained Cowboys Karma as others to watch should they make the final field.

The first two past the post in Sunday’s Qualifier will advance to the $400,000 final at Royal Randwick on April 1.

“Weights will play a big role,” Gordon said of the race itself.

“It’s over 1400m and it will be run at a fast pace I’d imagine.

“And the standard is improving every year, the standard across the board.”

No horse from the Western Qualifier at Dubbo has figured in the placings in the final during the first two years of the Country Championships.

The best result is Something Borrowed, who finished eighth last year.

“That’s the next step for us and the progress we’ve got to make,” Gordon said of performing in the final.

In terms of other events on the card on Sunday, the new maiden feature initiative from Racing NSW will feature on Sunday with a Maiden Plate worth $40,000 to be run.

It attracted 36 hopeful starters while both the Benchmark 55 Handicap (1100m) and Class 2 Handicap (1400m) attracted a whopping 38 nominations each.

“It’s a really good program and gives horses the chance to race at a showcase meeting,” Gordon said.

“The showcase idea is working, the Championships are working, the big maiden we’ve got now and that’s another Racing NSW initiative that’s working and that’s all reflected in the nominations.

“Everyone should be pleased with that.”

The final fields for Sunday’s meeting, which will be free to attend and feature a number of off-track activities as well, will be released on Thursday.