The Racing NSW Country Championship.
It’s every regional trainer’s goal and as Orange’s Lee Van Den Bos said, considering the qualifiers are worth $150,000 and the final a cool half million, “you’d be silly not to have a crack”.
She will be, in fact, she’s targeting the 1400-metre Central Districts Qualifier in Mudgee in a fortnight with two of her stable’s best – Beau Hoffa and Loves A Hassle.
Although, she admitted she’s hoping rather than expecting to see both in the barriers on February 25.
“There’ll be a lot of very highly rated horses nominating and if you don’t have the points built up, you just won’t get a start,” she said.
“I think it’s more likely Beau Hoffa will be there than Loves A Hassle, he is the higher rated of the two, but we’re obviously hoping for both and we’re targeting it with both.
“To be truthful, I just think you’d be silly not to have a crack at it.”
Both Beau Hoffa and Loves A Hassle will run this weekend in what’s expected to be their last start before nominating for the championship-qualifier.
Van Den Bos is sending the former to Sydney’s Warwick Farm to tackle a $60,000 TAB Highway Handicap (1200m) on Saturday while the latter will head to Bathurst’s Tyers Park for the 1300-metre Gold Circle Cup Class 4 Showcase Handicap, which doubles as a championship preview, on Sunday.
“Honestly, we just didn’t want to have two running in the same race, that’s why Beau’s going to Sydney. And I’ve always thought if you think they’re good enough you should send them down to the city, it’s worth a crack,” Van Den Bos said.
Beau Hoffa is first-up in Saturday’s highway after a 14-week spell and his record when resuming is good, with five starts for a win and two places.
Van Den Bos says his work has been excellent as well and he’s also coming off a spirited trial win over 1000 at Bathurst late last month.
“He’s been very good in work, he usually is,” she said.
“That was a pretty strong trial in Bathurst too. We would’ve liked him to have one or two more jump-outs, but there isn’t that many around … but he has had hoof problems so we also don’t want to over-run him.”
The gelding’s last start was a win at Towac Park, a pretty comfortable one too despite the narrow half-length margin.
“We’re hoping he can recapture that form,” Van Den Bos said.
“It’s a pretty strong highway this weekend and he’s an outsider, so I’m really hoping he just puts his best foot forward and runs a good race for us.
“It’s funny, my husband likes Loves A Hassle while I like Beau Hoffa. I’m always confident with him, he just seems to always find that bit extra and surprises you.”
Saturday’s highway jumps at 2.35pm while Sunday’s Gold Circle Cup starts at 4.36pm.
Beau Hoffa opened at $35 while Loves A Hassle is looking at seven-to-one.