Rod Northam’s Highway winner could be Country Championships contender 

The Rod Northern-trained The Dramatist was a strong winner in the 1500m Class Three Highway Handicap at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday. Photo: Bradley Photos.

An impressive victory in Saturday’s Highway Handicap at Rosehill Gardens has many racing pundits predicting that the Rod Northam-trained The Dramatist is on a one-way path to the 2023 Country Championships.

Ridden by stable apprentice Reece Jones in the 1500m Class Three Handicap, the five-year-old couldn’t have been any more impressive when charging from midfield on the home turn to win by 2.65 lengths from the Terry Robinson-trained Danzadel (Brock Ryan, $9.50) in second, while in third and 3.11 lengths off the winner was the Jeremy Sylvester-trained Master of Rewards (Julia Presits, $41). 

Having now started 13 times for three wins and four minor placings, including Saturday’s Highway victory, The Dramatist is all but assured of a start in the Hunter North West qualifier at Tamworth on March 5, and Northam is already concocting a plan of attack for the $150,000 qualifier, which leads into the $500,000 final at Royal Randwick on April 1.

“I will probably give him one more run and then freshen him up and target the Country Championships first or second up,” Northam said. 

“He’s an improving horse. He is probably the sort of horse that is looking for further so we will have to have him on the fresh side. 

“It should suit thought; it is generally a high-pressure race, and he has won at Tamworth over 1400m before, and that will hold him in good stead.”

The Dramatist is better on top of the ground, having started on good tracks five times for two wins and two placings, and Northam admitted that the weather gods will need to be on their side when the Country Championships roll around again. 

“He does look a good chance, but he does like a dry track, so the weather will play a part and any sort of wet track won’t help him,” Northam said.  

Northam, who has gone close to winning the Country Championships before, finishing third in 2015 with Voodoo Lad, and second in 2017 with After All That, could very well head into the Hunter North West qualifier with a four-pronged attack, with the likes of Bootscooter, Syrian Star and Overextend all on the same path as The Dramatist. 

“Bootscooter is heading towards the country champs as well but it’s the opposite for her as she likes the wet tracks, but it does mean we will have a wet-tracker and dry-tracker ready,” Northam said. 

“Syrian Star is another one that we will have a shot with. Three-year-olds are not weighted that well and they get no real advantage in the Country Championships, but if she comes back and improves a bit as we expect, she will head towards an 1100m Highway in January, and then go into the Country Champs.”

“Overextend could improve a bit this prep and he will run in a Highway on Christmas Eve, and he might hopefully progress towards that direction as well.”

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