Magic Millions Country Cup winner to line up as favourite in Tamworth qualifier

Ben Looker will again team up with the Cody Morgan-trained Ezekeil in Sunday’s Country Championships qualifier at Tamworth. Photo: Bradley Photos

Tamworth trainer Cody Morgan will present a very strong hand in the 2023 $150,000 Hunter and North West Racing Association Country Championships qualifier at Tamworth on Sunday. 

Leading the stable’s chances is Ezekeil, which is $7 favourite to take out the country-only final at Royal Randwick on April 1, but firstly, he must get through the always-tough qualifier, and with Ben Looker in the saddle and from gate seven, the four-year-old is understandably the $3.30 favourite on Sunday.

Ezekeil deserves to be in the market, having started 15 times for five wins and five minor placings, and at his previous two starts, he won the Armidale Newmarket over 1100m on December 11 before travelling up north last month and winning the $500,000 Magic Millions Country Cup at the Gold Coast.

The Tamworth galloper does have a lot in his favour, but he isn’t proven at seven furlongs, with his only attempts over 1400m being a second to last finish in the 2022 Hunter and North West qualifier, and a last-place finish in the 2022 Scone Wild Card qualifier. 

“Ezekeil has a great record but I’m a bit hesitant that he should be a clear favourite,” Morgan told Racing NSW

“He’s just got a few negatives and that’s a distance query and 59kg, but the draw will help and his trackwork has been great.”

Morgan has touched on Ezekeil’s quirks in the past, but he believes he has worked him out, and now it is a matter of seeing whether he runs out a strong 1400m on his home track on Sunday.  

“I’ve had an opportunity to work him out, he enjoys his races being spaced and ever since we’ve done that, he’s been effective,’’ Morgan said.

“This will give us a good guide going forward, he’s as well as he can be so if he doesn’t run it out strongly, we won’t experiment with it again.

“I know he was dominant at the Gold Coast but he’s going from 54kg at 1200m to 59kg at 1400m. I’ve always felt that he was a false favourite, but I hope I’m wrong and they’re right.”

Morgan has won three of the last four Country Championships Hunter and North West qualifiers, with Unbiased winning in 2019, Ligulate in 2020, and Anethole in 2022, and Ezekeil heads a strong team of four runners from the Tamworth yard, which includes Casino Lord (Koby Jennings, $19) , Acrophobic (Dylan Gibbons, $15), Seguso (Andrew Gibbons, $14). 

As always, it is a loaded Hunter and North West qualifier and for the field click here