Big guns to contest Hunter North West qualifier

The Cody Morgan-trained Edit is one of the series favourites in the 2022 Country Championships. Photo: Bradley Photos.

Since the Country Championships kicked off in 2015, each year there have been comparisons between the seven racing districts, with each region hoping their best and brightest gallopers can do their region proud on the big stage that is Royal Randwick.

In the early days, Hunter North West Racing Association gallopers dominated the popular series, with the Todd Willan-trained Artlee finishing seventh to Voodoo Lad in the Tamworth qualifier, before taking out the Muswellbrook wildcard and the Royal Randwick final in 2015.

Then in 2016, the Greg Bennett-trained Clearly Innocent won the Scone qualifier and final, making it two in a row for the strong racing district.

Since then, the Northern Rivers and South East Racing Associations have tasted the most success. The Cathleen Rode-trained Free Standing (2017) and Matthew Dunn-trained Gracie Belle (2020) did the Northern Rivers proud, while the Todd Blowes-trained Noble Boy (2019) and Terry Robinson-trained Art Cadeau (2021) have flown the South East’s flag in recent years. 

In 2018, Mid North Coast galloper Victorem for Jenny Graham won the series, while no winners have come out of the Southern Districts, Central Districts and Western Districts.

In 2022, the Hunter North West Racing Association will look to get back on top, and their heat is shaping to be the strongest of any district in recent years. 

The $150,000 qualifier will be held at Tamworth Jockey Club on March 6, and TJC General Manager Michael Buckley touched on some of the leading local chances in what he believed will be a very good race.

“On the track I think it will be the strongest of the qualifiers with the Cody Morgan/Australian Bloodstock team to have at least four (Edit, Mo’s Crown, Wren’s Day, Anethole) genuine chances in the race,” Buckley said. 

Visiting gallopers will add to the theatre of the Tamworth qualifier, and Buckley liked a few chances.

“The Scone brigade will be strong, and I expect Cameron Crockett (Commando Hunt, Mr Hussill) and Brett Cavanough (Patino Ruby, Street Power) to feature prominently,” Buckley said.

“A horse that interests me is Banju trained by Lyle Chandler, he’s coming off back-to-back wins in Highway’s and boasts an impressive record.”

Another major player looks to be the Mark Schmetzer-trained Air Marshal and there is no doubting any of the previously mentioned horses can win on their day. 

It will be another huge day of racing at Tamworth, with an eight-race Showcase meeting set to attract very good fields.

“Outside of the heat, it’s always a strong day of racing with showcase prizemoney on offer and trainers from Provincial and Country are prepared to load up their floats and spend their Sunday at Tamworth,” Buckley said. 

With the meeting being on a Sunday, Tamworth have made the event family friendly, with plenty of entertainment on offer.

“Off the track we have a range of entertainment for young and old. The kids will be treated to a jumping castle, pony rides and a face painting stall,” Buckley said. 

“The Trackside Pavilion Party will have food outlets, private bar, TAB facilities and performances by Saving June throughout the day.

“TAB will be bringing in their big double decker bus to complement their TAB Lawn Party and that activation area will be available to everyone.”

Nominations for the heat close on Tuesday at 11am, and there is no doubting racing fans and punters will be keeping a close eye on entries and final acceptances on Thursday. 

For those thinking of going to Tamworth next Sunday, general admission is $10 and entry to the trackside pavilion party is $40, while kid’s entry is free and gates open at 11am.

For more on the meeting, readers can click here