It was a boilover of sorts in the $150,000 Country Classic at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday, with 40/1 chance Marsabit finishing strongly to win the 2000m country-only staying event.
Ridden by in-form apprentice Amy McLucas, the Goulburn galloper was in the back half of the 18-strong field when turning for home, but the pair proved too strong to the line, winning by 0.55 of a length from the Keith Dryden-trained and race favourite Dream Runner (Tyler Schiller, $4.80) in second, while the fast-finishing, Troy O’Neile-trained Beckford (Serg Lisnyy, $40) finished 0.71 of a length away in third.
Trainer Danny Williams admitted that he thought his galloper was every chance of winning the race, suggesting to connections to get behind Marsabit, which was subsequently backed in from 80/1 to 40/1 by start time.
“We were confident, and we thought the horse would run exceptionally well,” Williams said.
“It’s hard to be overly confident when your drawing barrier 17 and coming out barrier 15 but for anyone that wanted to listen to me, I mentioned the horse could go well and I said he was way above the odds and with a fair run would go close to winning that day.”
The Country Classic turned out to be a good race and Williams explained that his five-year-old, which originally raced with success in Ireland before being brought to Australia, had been set for the rich country-only race.
“We had been planning for this race, and it wasn’t something that was a last-minute thought,” Williams said.
“We got the horse off David Payne, and he basically refused to go on the track, and in one trial, he left the barriers and pulled up and David got very frustrated with him.
“He bought the horse from overseas for quite a bit of money, and he was a bit disappointing and at that point of time, he was training from the treadmill.
“When he came to me, we gave him his first start at Rosehill over 1200m and we expected the horse to run well, but the track was too firm.
“Since then, he has endured a very interrupted preparation. He was meant to race in the Tony Campbell Cup at Canberra, which was washed out, and then into the Coonabarabran Cup, and that was washed out
“We hadn’t had a lot of luck, and the owners said they wanted to put the horse on the market, and I asked them to make sure they put a reserve as I believed he still had a lot to offer, but he went up for sale and I purchased him back.”
Some owners purchased back into Marsabit, and Williams was thrilled to see his runner perform over 10 furlongs.
“I felt the horse was always looking for a mile and further,” Williams said.
“Yesterday he showed that; yes, it was on a firm track, but he showed what he is capable of.”
Williams and connections now have the $2 million Big Dance in mind, and it appears some country cups will be on their agenda.
“That’s why we bought the horse back, we thought it (The Big Dance) would be the perfect race for him,” Williams said.
“We will consider running him next Saturday and then give him a break. There are a lot of good opportunities for him.”
The best could still be to come for Marsabit, and Williams hopes a good spell does the trick.
“I don’t think he is fully acclimated to Australian weather. He is only just starting to clean up in his legs and he still had his winter coat,” Williams said.
“Only now is he starting to adjust. I think we will give him one more run, then a break and hopefully he will come back even better.”
In a big day for country gallopers at Rosehill Gardens, the 1100m Class Two Highway Handicap was won by the Stephen Jones-trained Sussu (James McDonald, $8.50).
Ridden in behind the early leaders, McDonald was able to find the front on the Scone galloper, winning the $120,000 event from the Scott Singleton-trained I’m Not Slew (Reece Jones, $12) in second and the Brett Thompson-trained Extra Flash (Tim Clarke, $15) in third.
For full results from Rosehill Gardens, readers can click here.