Associate spouts wings in Southern Wild Card qualifier

The Danielle Seib-trained Associate has qualified for next month’s $1 million Country Championships final.
Image: Bradley Photos.

Punters only wanted one horse in the $150,000 Southern Wild Card qualifier at Goulburn on Sunday, and that was the Danielle Seib-trained Associate.  

Backed in from $8.50 to $6.50 early doors and $6.50 into $3 favourite on the day, jockey Zac Lloyd had to go back on four-year-old as the Norm Gardner-trained Dorami (James Innes Jnr, $21) led the field along. 

Still last turning for home, punters would have had their hearts in their mouths, but Lloyd got the Star Witness gelding to the outside.

In space, he sprouted wings before hitting the line to win by a length from the Barbara Joseph, Paul, and Matt Jones-trained Zouatica (Andrew Adkins, $5.50). 

In third and two lengths back was the Aaron Clarke-trained Bon Frankie (Richard Bensley, $8). 

Associate is a horse with a lot of ability who hasn’t had much luck during his nine-start career, so it was a satisfying win for Seib. 

“He’s a good horse; we’ve always known that; everybody gets off him and says that; he’s just had a luckless career to date,” Seib said.  

“He’s had a lot go wrong; you could write a narrative about him.”

Seib’s secret weapon and partner, Aaron Day, has played a big role in Associate’s career, and the Goulburn trainer agreed it was a team effort. 

“Thank you to the many people who have contributed to making him sound and a happy horse,” Seib said.

“He doesn’t have the best feet, and that’s Aaron’s job; there’s our vet, John Crowley, and just a lot of people we want to thank for getting these horses here today; it’s not me so much.”

Associate will now tackle the $1 million Country Championship final at Royal Randwick, and Seib was oozing confidence after their qualifier win.

“I don’t think there’s a horse as suited to Randwick as he is,” Seib said. 

“(It’s) 1400m, a big track, and you see he needed the whole length of the straight to get home (today), but he is going to relish the high pressure.

“He’s just getting that little bit more polished every time. He still got a bit of a wobble at the top of the straight when Zac really asked him to go, but he did really knuckle down and come between horses with a bit more of an idea.”

For jockey Zac Lloyd, he’s now booked his spot in the rich country-restricted final, and he said connections were confident heading to Goulburn. 

“She (Danielle) was confident coming into this race and said you’ll have a ride after today, and she was right,” Lloyd said. 

“It was a very, very good win. Not much went right for him, especially early; he’s still very, very new to it all. It was a good win to get up.”

Associate is the 16th and final qualifier for the 2024 Country Championships final, which will be run and won at Royal Randwick on Saturday, April 6. 

For more on the 2024 Country Championships, click here

NSW Country and Picnic Racing will have Country Championships previews on runners in the coming weeks.