Racing Turgenev and Not Too Bad, the Gilgandra trainer said it was a thrill to be involved, let alone preparing two live chances.
“I’ve been watching these country cups on the sideline for a few years, and it’s nice to have a couple of nice horses that you know are some sort of chance,” Hazelton told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.
The pair are coming off good runs in the Gilgandra Cup, where Turgenev finished third and Not Too Bad ran fourth to the eventual winner, the Michael Mulholland-trained Sea of Flames.
“This is probably a touch stronger, and we lose that home track advantage, but I feel like both my horses are in form, and they’ll give it a shake,” Hazelton said.
“It’s just dependent on the runs they get, but if you had to ask me, I’d have Turgenev just ahead, but the other horse is a big hope rolling forward.”
The Gilgandra duo ran into the Mulholland-trained pair, Sea of Flames and Athena’s Lad, which finished the quinella in the Gilgandra Cup on January 7.
While taking nothing away from Mulholland’s dynamic duo, which will commence well in the market at Cowra on Sunday, Hazelton believes both of his horses endured some hard luck when finishing behind the Dubbo pair on their home deck.
“Honestly, I think both horses ran extremely well the other day without any luck,” he said.
“The winner and the second horse were good, and they deserve to be favourites on Sunday, but they had dream runs the other day.
“Not Too Bad copped pressure from about 1000m, and he actually threw the race away after he made contact with the rail and overreacted.
“He just brushed it and frightened himself but lost his back legs, which took the wind out of his sail.
“Clayton (Gallagher) thought he was about to hit top gear, and while he absolutely got headed before it happened, Clayton seemed to believe he nearly levelled back up and his best work is his last 100m, and honestly, we think he would have gone close to winning.
“Then, with Turgenev, Jake (Pracey-Holmes) said he got back following the horse he didn’t want to follow, and they had to make their sprint from the 600m because the race was getting away from them.
“They set off pretty early, and I thought he was brave to circle the field and still be taking ground off the winner at the line.”
Jake Pracey-Holmes stays on Turgenev, and they have drawn nicely with gate two, while Mathew Cahill jumps aboard Not too Bad, and the pair are expected to go forward from gate eight.
“If Turgenev can take runs through the field and not have to circle them like he had to the other day, he’ll take some beating,” Hazelton said.
“He drops a kilo-and-a-half on his run at Gilgandra, and having that full two weeks between runs, we were chasing our tail going into Gilgandra because he missed a couple of runs and work, but he’s come through fine, and we’re a lot happier with him going into this race than a fortnight ago.
“With Not Too Bad, this Sunday, I see him rolling forward and making his own luck, and with 55kg on his back, he’ll be thereabouts.”
The in-form Hazelton yard heads to Cowra with six chances, including Dancelittlesister (Emma Ly, gate 6) in the 950m Benchmark 58 Handicap, Mamelon (James Rogers, gate 11) in the 1200m Benchmark 58 Handicap, Mean Girls (James Rogers, gate 14) in the second of the 1200m Benchmark 58 Handicaps, and Winter Moon (James Rogers, gate 9) in the 1375m Class Three Handicap.
“My other best chance is probably Dancelittlesister,” Hazelton said.
“I was keen on her, but I would have liked to give her one run under her belt.
“My best chance would have been Mean Girls, but she has drawn horribly. She is ultra-consistent and will run a good race, but she’ll need to get some cover and not have to do a lot of work, and if that happens, she’ll go close.”
It’s set to be a big day at Cowra, with the meeting bow boasting nine races after the 1200m Benchmark 58 Handicap was split into two separate events.
There will be fashions on the field, the Reg Paine Memorial Jockey Challenge, full bar services, a food fan, bookmakers, and the TAB.
For more on the day, click here.