It wasn’t the result many punters expected but the Glen Milligan-trained Swamp Nation has defied all doubters to take out the $150,000 Mid North Coast Country Championships qualifier at Taree on Sunday.
Ridden by Madi Derrick, the Taree galloper started a 20/1 shot and she sat in behind the pace before surging from midfield to take out the seven-furlong event, beating the Colt Prosser-trained Little Prophet (Darryl McLennan) in second and the Matthew Robinson-trained Zaru (Jay Ford) in third.
Milligan was a tad surprised to see Swamp Nation beat a very handy field, and he believed stablemate Vicky’s One, which finished sixth and was beaten only 1.91 lengths, was unlucky not to finish in the money too.
“It was a good win, but I was worried about the 1400m with her if I’m being honest,” Milligan said.
“I still think my other filly (Vicky’s One) should have won. She got held up for a run in that last 200m and should have finished closer.”
Despite there being some expectation that Swamp Nation would lead the qualifier, Derrick gave the three-year-old a soft run and Milligan said it made all the difference.
“Everyone said we would lead but we had no intentions to lead,” Milligan said.
“Then all the scratchings came out and she was left there and probably should have been in front, but they went ridiculously hard in front.
“It played into our hands and Madi gave her every chance to run 1400m, and she surprised me, but it was good surprise.”
The ride was good enough for Derrick to be offered the chance to partner Swamp Nation in the $500,00 Country Championships final at Royal Randwick on April 2.
“Madi has been told she can have the ride if she wants it,” Milligan said.
“She has only had two rides for me, and it’s been on her twice and she’s won twice, and she will get the chance if she wants it.”
Swamp Nation was coming off a 1200m Class Four Handicap win at Port Macquarie and following her Taree Country Championships qualifier victory, Milligan believes the Stratum Star filly can improve again.
“I think she will improve, and she has to if I’m being honest,” Milligan said.
“She needs to improve another two to three lengths and keeping her eating is my biggest battle.
“Touch wood she keeps it up and we are lucky to have her eating after the run and she looks to have got through it pretty good.”
Milligan, who prepared Charmmebaby to finish third behind Art Cadeau and Another One in the 2021 Country Championships, knows what it takes to compete in the $500,000 final and he hopes his young filly can replicate that same success.
“We are not dreaming, and we know it will be a hard race for her to win,” Milligan said.
“Charmmebaby went down there and ran out of her skin, and I know this filly doesn’t go as good as her, but she hasn’t done too much wrong.
“She has given herself every chance and she has won 4 from 11 and we will see how she goes.”
Swamp Nation is likely to have one more run before the final, but Milligan stressed her preparation wasn’t ‘locked in’.
“I will give her a run,” Milligan said.
“It won’t be the next Grafton meeting, but maybe the one after that over 1175m.
“I don’t want to run her over 1400m because I don’t want to bust her, and I want to keep her fresh for the final.
“Nothing is locked in, and we will just see how she comes on from her win and go from there.”
Milligan will be looking to get Vicky’s One in the $500,000 final too, with the Super One filly set to contest the Country Championships Wildcard qualifier at Scone on March 20.
“She has pulled up so well and I have nominated her for a 1500m at Port (Macquarie) on Monday and at this stage she is going around,” Milligan said.
“She is very frustrating. She doesn’t have a lot of luck, and she needs the speed on, but I actually think she suits that kind of race, and we will take her to the Wildcard if she is going okay.”