Tap ‘N’ Run did it easy at Albury on Thursday when winning the 1400m Class Four Handicap.
Ridden by Nick Souquet, the Ron Stubbs-trained galloper jumped from gate 13, and was three-wide and midfield during the early stages of the seven-furlong event.
With the Mont Waters-trained Namarari running the field along, there was pace in the race, and on the Albury home straight, Tap ‘N’ Run demonstrated why he considered one of the leading chances in the Country Championships series, storming down the outside to win by 0.74 of a length from the Mitch Beer-trained Snowbella in second and the Graham Byatt-trained Demanding Mo in third.
Stubbs said Tap ‘N’ Run would now contest the $150,000 Southern Districts Country Championships qualifier at Wagga on February 19, with connections hoping for at least a top two finish and a chance to run in the $500,000 Country Championships final at Royal Randwick on April 2.
“All being well, we will be there at Wagga,” Stubbs said.
“He looks the right kind of horse for the race.”
The Reward for Effort gelding is lightly raced, starting 10 times for three wins and four minor placings.
Following a 16-week spell, the Albury galloper resumed at Canberra, flashing late to finish third in the 1000m Class Two Handicap before Thursday’s win at Albury.
“We have been very happy with him,” Stubbs said.
“His first up run at Canberra was exceptional over 1000m and his sectional times were very good.”
Stubbs explained the Country Championships had always been in mind for Tap ‘N’ Run.
“He was a slow learner early in his career, but he takes that step forward each run and he just keeps getting better,” Stubbs said.
“We targeted this prep with the Country Championships in mind and he hasn’t put a foot wrong.”
His Albury win all but guarantees him a start at Wagga, and Stubbs said the result was important, with connections originally considering a tilt at the 1200m Class Three TAB Highway Handicap on Saturday before choosing to race him on his home track.
“We were going to target the Highway, but I had concerns with two things; one being the weather and the other being the class of the race,” Stubbs said.
“He was a benchmark 63 before his win, and I wanted to get a couple of extra points and get him in the field, and winning that race makes him a definite starter.”
Tap ‘N Run looks a suitable candidate for the Country Championships, with races generally run along very quickly, suiting those backmarkers and strong finishers.
“You approach those races with that frame of mind that there will be a lot of pace and it should suit the backmarkers,” Stubbs said.
“There will be a lot of pace on at Wagga, but It looks very even on paper. We were talking about it yesterday, and there isn’t one horse standing out above the rest and it will be a good contest.”
With Tap ‘N’ Run set to carry 56kg at Wagga, Nick Souquet won’t be able to take the ride due to his weight, with Mathew Cahill offered the opportunity instead.
“Nothing is finalised but Mat Cahill has been offered the ride, probably along with every runner in the race,” Stubbs laughed.
“He has made no definite decision, so we will wait to see what he says, but unfortunately, he looks to be outside of Nick’s weight range.”
Still, Stubbs praised Souquet for his work with Tap ‘N’ Run.
“It was a great ride without doubt. He has been riding work for us and it is great when you can give something back and they can get a good win,” Stubbs said.
With the Country Championships heats set to kick-off at Coffs Harbour on the 12th of February, before Nowra on the 13th of February, Stubbs believed there was excitement state-wide as trainers and owners dreamed of winning the rich country-only final.
“It is a fantastic concept,” Stubbs said.
“There are a couple of points that make it very interesting. Firstly, with the benchmark system, you’ll have these fringe horses trying to up their rating to assure them the start.
“Then you have trainers trying to organise jockeys and rides and there is quite a bit involved and a lot of excitement and it is just a great race to be involved with.”