Matthew Kelley ready to repeat the dose in Southern Wild Card

The Matthew Kelley-trained Invertational will take on Sunday’s $150,000 Southern Wild Card qualifier at Goulburn. Image: Bradley Photos.

Only 12 months ago, Matthew Kelley won the biggest race of his career when I’ve Bean Tryin’ triumphed in the $150,000 Country Championships Southern Wild Card qualifier at Goulburn.

The Canberra galloper went on to run third to Sizzle Minizzle in the $500,000 final before eventually winning the Barn Dance in November. 

On Sunday, Kelley will try to repeat the dose with the up-and-coming mare, Invertational. 

The four-year-old has started ten times and registered four wins. In late 2022 and early 2023, the daughter of Invader went on to win three on the trot. 

Tested in the 2023 Country Championships as a three-year-old, she wasn’t disgraced. She finished sixth to Kimberley Secrets in the South East qualifier at Moruya before running eighth to stablemate I’ve Bean Tryin’ in the Southern Wild Card. 

After a decent spell, she resumed in the Sprinters Cup (1206m) at Canberra in September but bled for the first time, which saw her go back to the paddock.

“She went amiss last prep and had a bleed,” Kelley told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.

“So, you can put a line through her only run of last prep as she had a few excuses. 

“The prep before was when she impressed us all and won three in a row, and as a three-year-old filly, I probably threw her in the deep end when racing her in the qualifier and wild card.

“To her credit, she was very competitive, especially at Goulburn when my other horse (I’ve Bean Tryin’) won.

Kelley said Invertational is back to her best.

She came out and trialled well, finishing second to Pokerjack over 900m at Canberra on February 9 before resuming with a first-up fifth to Demanding Mo in a 1200m Federal at Canberra on February 23. 

“That last prep was out of the ordinary, as she is usually clean-winded and healthy, so we tipped her out and gave her the time she needed,” Kelley said. 

“Since she’s been back in, she has done everything right, and we were really happy with her first trial at Canberra.

“First up at Canberra in a Federal, the winner was Demanding Mo, which came out and ran second in the National Sprint, and it was a funny race that day. 

“The first two (Demanding Mo and Fangela) put the breaks on, and to her credit, she still made ground when she didn’t have a right to and finished fifth, beaten only two lengths.”

Earlier this month, Invertational trialled very nicely, finishing second to Love Shuck over 800m at Canberra after Kelley scratched her from the South East qualifier at Moruya, which the Danny Williams-trained Bandi’s Boy won

“It was going to be seven days from that run at Canberra into the Moruya qualifier, and the petrol tank wasn’t full, so I elected to scratch her and save her for the Wild Card,” Kelley said. 

“There would have been a month between runs, which wasn’t ideal, so we decided to put her in a barrier trial in between. 

“I was stoked with the effort, and I didn’t want to see her peaking at the post, but I wanted her to be getting warm as it was only 800m. 

“She was striding out past the post, and if you watch the replay, you see that 200m after the post, she puts four lengths on them. 

“Louise (Day) came back from the trial and said, ‘This horse is ready’.

Day, who’s been in the saddle for three of Invertational’s four wins, keeps the ride on Sunday.

Connections have drawn gate 13, but it’s not worrying Kelley or his team. 

“I’m not fazed by the barrier at all,” Kelley said. 

“If anything, I probably prefer to draw out there. We put the winkers on at Canberra, and that switched her on, and now we’re up to 1400m. With the winkers on, I expect her to be positive and go forward from out there.

“There is a big, long straight, and Louise should be able to roll into a decent position.”

Kelley said he is heading to Goulburn confident, with Invertational a more mature and race-ready horse than she was 12 months ago.

“Mentally and physically, she’s always been a bit behind the eight ball,” Kelley said. 

“She’s on the small side, and she hasn’t got a big frame and doesn’t carry much condition.

“She’s mentally a timid horse, and as a three-year-old, she got the job done and won races, but she didn’t have a racing brain, and she won races quite ugly.

“She’d pop out the back, out of everyone’s way, as she hated getting cut off and squeezed, and she needed to learn how to race a bit more tractably.

“Off that trial the other day, it shows she has matured and that she is now happy to run through that pressure. 

“Her brain has switched on, and she is a racehorse, and that’s important, as you need that when you are going up in grade and taking on these harder races.”

Connections will hope Kelley is on the mark as the winner of Sunday’s qualifier will earn the 16th and final place in the $1 million Country Championships final at Royal Randwick on April 6. 

A $41 chance with bookmakers, Invertational appears to be a good value play in an open event. 

At the time of publishing, the Todd Smart-trained Gundy Guy was a $4.20 favourite, ahead of the Barbara Joseph, Paul and Matt Jones-trained Zouatica ($4.60), Aaron Clarke-trained Bon Frankie ($6), Danielle Seib-trained Associate ($7), and Wayne Carroll-trained Salute Again ($9.50).