Murwillumbah's Matt Dunn capped off a remarkable afternoon leading in five winners when his classy mare La Scopa powered over the top of her rivals to claim the $150,000 Northern Rivers Country Championships Qualifier (1400m) at Grafton and bolt into favouritism for the April 6 final.
Confidently backed from $1.95 into $1.65 favourite on Sunday, La Scopa gave her supporters plenty of concern when third last in the big field approaching the 600 metres.
Jockey Jason Collett (who rode four winners) then angled the four-year-old into the clear and she responded by finishing with a flashing run to claim Queen of Kingston (Ben Looker, $13) and score by just under a length.
Both La Scopa and Queen of Kingston now head to Royal Randwick on Saturday 6 April for the $500,000 Newhaven Park Country Championships Final (1400m).
Following the win, TAB elevated La Scopa to now be the $4.50 favourite with Queen of Kingston an $11 chance (in from $26).
... she's the right type of horse for the final.La Scopa trainer Matt Dunn.
Noble Boy ($5) and Awesome Pluck ($11) are on the next two lines of betting but both will have to qualify for the $500,000 final via next Sunday's wildcard heat at Muswellbrook after falling out of their respective top two places in their regional heats.
Westlink and Sons Of Bourke both booked places in the final via the Western qualifier while Soul Secrets and Noel's Gift, out of the Cameron Crockett and Gayna Williams' stables respectively, earned places thanks to strong runs in the Central Districts heat.
But Dunn's four-year-old mare shapes at the horse to beat come the final at Randwick.
"That was a great effort being six weeks between runs and she deserves her place in the field [Final]," Dunn said afterwards.
"I'm not surprised she was heavily backed as she got into the race well, being a Stakes-placed horse with just 54 kilos."
Jason Collett said he wasn't feeling overly confident coming to the home bend.
"I've been more confident; she was on the bridle then off the bridle and ran the race in patches. But she's the right type of horse for the final."
Despite finishing runner-up, trainer Daniel Bowen was delighted with the run of Queen of Kingston to secure a berth in the Country Championships Final.
"This is the biggest thrill I've had in racing. My mare ran her heart out and he [Ben Looker] rode her perfectly," Bowen said.
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