Billy Owen will be hoping he has made the right decision when he heads to Albury for the Southern Districts Country Championships qualifier on Saturday instead of venturing to Royal Randwick.
The 30-year-old turned down the ride on the Tash Burleigh-trained Iron Will in the $120,000 Highway Handicap in Sydney so he could travel to the border to ride the Peter Morgan-trained Burrandana in the $150,000 qualifier, but he admitted it wasn’t an easy decision.
“I was spewing that they were on the same day,” Owen said.
“I didn’t actually realise Albury was going to be on a Saturday, so I thought I’d be able to ride both, but when I realised that they were both on the Saturday, I had to make a choice.”
Luckily for Owen, the owners of Iron Will like the Canberra-based hoop, and he will get his chance again on the three-year-old down the track, with connections insisting he take the ride at Albury.
“They said it was a no brainer, and to go and do what you have to do,” Owen said.
Burrandana is a very nice horse, having started four times for three wins on his home track, with Owen already enjoying some success on the Wagga galloper.
“He is very unassuming, which I like in a horse,” Owen said.
“I’ve only had the one ride on him, and I know he only just got there late to win, but it was so easy in how he got there.
“It’s sort of hard to explain. Once he won and got the job done, he gave me the feeling that he had so much more on that field than how it looked.
“Then at his next start, I was suspended and that’s why Jeff (Penza) rode him, and that was the best of his three wins, and he really does look very progressive.”
While the Country Championships is Morgan and Owen’ immediate focus, the in-form hoop believes bigger and better things await the Duporth gelding that is out of Cha Cha Dancer.
“It’s funny, I don’t like to get ahead of myself, but you have to dream a little bit in this game, and after I won on him, I said to a few people that he will win an Albury or Wagga Cup in the future,” Owen said.
“It was only a Class One race or whatever it was, but he is the sort of horse that strikes me as being pretty classy down the track.”
The 2023 Southern Districts qualifier is the region’s strongest since the Country Championships kicked off in 2015, and Burrandana is 17th in the order of entry, meaning he will need some luck to be guaranteed a start in the 16-horse field.
Owen is confident he will start, but he admitted it was an open race.
“I just can’t believe how even it is, and there is going to be 16 horses, and I don’t think you can rule any out,” Owen said.
“Last year, Another One was a standout, and there were probably three or four smokies that were chances of knocking him off, and the rest were making up the field without being disrespectful to their owners.
“Honestly, anything can win, and it will be a good race.”
Still, Owen doesn’t want to be on any other horse, and he believes his lightly-raced Burrandana can get the job done for connections.
“I know he is only a Class Three horse, and you don’t talk about horses being that good at this stage of their career, and he is racing above his grade too,” Owen said.
“In saying that, I don’t think I’ve rode any other horse in the race, but the feeling this horse gives me, I wouldn’t want to ride any other horse in the race.”
The final fields for Albury’s race will be released tomorrow and there will certainly be interest in the barrier draw for what should be a stellar qualifier.
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