Plonka eyeing Wild Card berth into Country Championships final

The Warren Gavenlock trained Plonka is primed and ready for the Country Championships Wild Card qualifier at Muswellbrook on Friday. Photo: Racing and Sports.

For many runners contesting the $50,000 Country Championships Wild Card at Muswellbrook tomorrow, this will be their second chance to qualify for the $500,000 final at Royal Randwick on April 10.

The same goes for the Warren Gavenlock trained Plonka, who finished sixth in the Northern Riverina Racing Association (NRRA) qualifier at Coffs Harbour back in February. 

The five-year-old is no stranger to the popular series either, having won the NRRA qualifier last year, before finishing third, beaten 0.3 of a length in the final behind Gracie Belle – a reason why many racing pundits are backing him to win the 1280m event on Friday.

Gavenlock spoke to NSW Country and Picnic Racing upon arriving in Muswellbrook, and he said he couldn’t fault his Epaulette gelding.

“Right now, today, I would say he is going equally as good as he was last year,” Gavenlock said. 

“It took us five and a half hours to get here. He has had a walk; he is having a pick and a play around right now and he is enjoying all the new surrounds.

“He has done a bit of travelling before and he has handled this trip really good.”

Gavenlock said a good draw should suit his galloper, who will have Jeff Penza aboard when jumping from gate six or better.

The Newhaven Park Country Championships Wild Car qualifier barrier draw.

“For sure, he is a massive hope. He has drawn well, and if the emergencies don’t start, he comes out of two,” Gavenlock said.

“Providing the track plays fair, and it doesn’t get too gluey, he should be in with every chance.”

Track conditions could play a big part in the result, but the Coffs Harbour visitor said it would be the same for every runner.

“I spoke to the curator, Bernie Evans, and he reckons it will get back to a (heavy) eight by our race,” Gavenlock said.

“We all know a drying out track is worse than a wet track, but we will have to take it how it comes and we all have to race on it.”

Race favourite, Fender, is the horse to beat according to Gavenlock, but he said any one of the 20 runners couldn’t get the job done. 

“Fender is the horse to beat I believe, and the rest of them to be honest,” Gavenlock said.

“Everything is chance in this race; everyone is there to win it and everyone believes they should be in the final.”

Plonka drew poorly in the NRRA heat, and Gavenlock said his galloper was fairing much better for this event, even though he has been unable to work on the course proper due to the recent rains and flooding.

“Obviously, we weren’t 100% going into the qualifier at Coffs Harbour, it didn’t suit us, but the draw didn’t suit us either,” Gavenlock said.

“We are lucky that he swims, and we can get to the beach. He has worked most of this week on the beach and swum on the odds days he hasn’t.

“We haven’t missed a beat with him as far as his fast work and a gallops go.”

Plonka is currently a $12 chance in the Wild Card qualifier, which is the last chance any horse has to compete in the 2021 Newhaven Park Country Championships final.