Robb eyes back-to-back Country Championships

Dubbo trainer Brett Robb with Country Championships hopeful Gallant Star. Image: Bradley Photos.

For Brett Robb, it could be a case of Déjà vu for the Dubbo trainer when heading to Royal Randwick on Saturday for the $1 million Country Championships final. 

In 2023, Robb raced Sizzle Minizzle in the $500,000 final on a heavy eight surface. 

Despite the Sizzling gelding starting a 60/1 outsider, he was too good for his rivals, winning by two lengths for jockey Sam Clipperton

With plenty of rain on the radar, Saturday is expected to provide another heavy surface for the rich country-restricted final.

Robb will again team up with Clipperton, who won’t be aboard the well-fancied Gallant Star. 

Slated as an $11 chance, and with the Kerry O’Keeffe-owned Zoustar gelding boasting form on rain-affected surfaces, Robb won’t be sneaking under the radar this time. 

A three-time winner, Gallant Star finished second to Elson Boy in the Western Districts qualifier at Coonamble last month, and Robb said it has been an enjoyable experience training the talented gelding.

“There is probably a bit more pressure, but it is good fun to have a horse like that, with the ability he’s got,” Robb told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.

“Having a horse owned by Kerry O’Keeffe means there is a lot of hype, but he is a really nice fella, a great person, and really good to talk to. 

“Not only does he ring up and see how the horses are doing, but he also checks in on me and how I’m doing, and he’s just a great fella.”

As a two-year-old, Gallant Star finished a good third, beaten a length-and-a-half in the $150,000 Coolmore Handicap (1100m) on a heavy nine. 

Robb doesn’t believe a heavy track will impact his gelding’s chances; in fact, he hinted that it would help them. 

“We took him down as a two-year-old, and it was a heavy nine and pretty bottomless, and he handled it; I don’t think he’ll have any dramas,” Robb said. 

“The thing I’m more confident about is that the horse is probably looking for a mile, and we go down to Randwick on a heavy track over 1400m, where I think you’re going to need a mile horse.”

Gallant Star will race with winkers for the first time, and Robb hopes it will help the Dubbo galloper stay focused throughout the seven-furlong event.  

“From the 600m to the 400m, he hits that flat spot in every race, and he’s lost races there,” Robb said.

“We’ve put the winkers on for the first time, and it is a bit of a risk, but we worked him with them on the other day, and he went well.

“Hopefully, he doesn’t switch off in that part of the race, and we see the best of him.”

If Gallant Star wins on Saturday, Robb will be the first trainer to go back-to-back in the Country Championships, and he admitted that the thought had crossed his mind. 

“We’ve been talking about it all week, and it would definitely be a big thrill, that’s for sure,” Robb said. 

“Last year was a big enough thrill. The country people counted us out, and to go out there as the Western Districts and win last year was massive. Hopefully, we can do it again this year.”