It was far from the easiest of wins, and favourites punters were left facing a real heart in your mouth finish, but the David McColm-trained Far Too Easy lived up to the pre-race hype to win the $150,000 Northern Rivers Racing Association Country Championships qualifier at Grafton on Saturday.
The Murwillumbah galloper started a well-supported $1.95 favourite despite jumping from gate 11, and jockey Ash Morgan was forced to sit midfield, travelling three wide in the early stages of the race.
Despite the tough run in transit, Morgan and Far Too Easy took off at the 500m mark, working around the field and finishing strongly down the outside to hold off the Stephen Lee-trained Zoukina ($4.40) by 0.1 of a length, while in third was the Brett Dodson-prepared Parksville ($6).
Morgan praised the talented three-year-old for what was a gutsy effort in a tough Country Championships qualifier.
“He’s a really, really nice horse,” Morgan said.
“You know; I set him a task and I said to David before the race, ‘it’s my job to stay out of the way and then if I can get cover; I get cover’.
“I landed three-deep with cover, and he got into a bit of a flat spot, and I got into him, and when I got into him, he just picked up straight away. I was like, ‘I’m off; I may as well keep going’.”
Far Too Easy is now a winner of five races from eight starts, and Morgan believes Saturday’s victory demonstrated the All Too Hard gelding’s determination and resilience.
“He was entitled to be vulnerable late. He’s got good energy and a lot of heart too,” Morgan said.
“He kept giving and he had to be tough late. A few horses would have packed in and threw the towel in.”
Far Too Easy is now the $4.50 favourite to win the $500,000 Country Championships final at Royal Randwick on April 2, and Morgan said the hype was certainly well-founded.
“I think he will be very hard to beat when he goes to the final,” Morgan said.
“I think with a nice gate and a soft run, he has a great temperament, and you can do whatever you want with him.”
Far Too Easy will be joined by Zoukina in the final, and the Ballina mare was game throughout the Northern Rivers qualifier for jockey Adrian Layt, pushing Far Too Easy right to the finish.
The three-time winner from 14 starts won’t be out of place in the $500,000 final and will also be joined by South East qualifiers Testator Silens and To The Nines, after the pair finished first and second respectively in the $150,000 qualifier at Nowra on Sunday.