Canberra trainer, Darryl Rolfe, will travel to Cootamundra on Saturday in search of Cootamundra Cup success and valuable NSW Picnic Racing Association (NSWPRA) Picnic Champion Series points.
The in-form Opera Tickets had drawn gate four in the feature event, and leading picnic hoop, Maddy Wright, is in the saddle.
Rolfe was confident of a strong showing, after his seven-year-old ran a good second in the Tullibigeal Cup on March 27.
“If he repeats that run, he goes well,” Rolfe said.
“There were wet patches, and he kept hitting them and dropping back two or three lengths, but he came home strong, and he wasn’t beaten far.”
The Tickets gelding did win a Benchmark 60 at Canberra four starts back, but Rolfe said he was probably looking for more distance at this stage of his preparation.
“1400m might be a touch short, but I’m trying to qualify him for the picnic champion final,” Rolfe said.
“When he was fresh, he won over the 1400m at Canberra but when he gets a few runs under his belt, he gets a bit dour.
“He is not a top horse, but he rarely puts in a bad run, and he is going well enough to win a race like this one.”
Rolfe has laid out a plan for Opera Tickets, who will be taking on other picnic cups in the next few weeks.
“As soon as I qualify him, I will freshen him up, but we need enough points first,” Rolfe said.
Opera Tickets has really turned the corner for Rolfe, after originally being a 24-start maiden, before turning into a competitive picnic and country galloper.
“I got him as a 24-start maiden and the previous trainer said I would never win a race with him and now he has won nearly $80,000,” Rolfe said.
“As a maiden, he won the Grenfell Cup. He has taken some work, but he is going okay.”
In what is an important time for picnic horses looking to qualify for the $50,000 Picnic Champion Series final at Coonamble later this year, Rolfe believes he has one runner that will qualify, while he will also have Rheingau contesting the 1400m Class Two Trophy Handicap – the Canberra runner also carrying Maddy Wright in the saddle.
“Waldo Waldorf will qualify and Rheingau will go close if all goes to plan,” Rolfe said.
“He (Rheingau) already has 14 points and if he wins or places tomorrow, he is up to 16 or over, and he is basically there and that’s why I wanted to split them up at Coota.
“Opera Tickets needs some attention in his next few starts, but he could be there too.”
Rolfe hopes to have all three runners qualified sooner rather than later, so he can prepare each runner for the final.
“If I qualify them all, they will all have a freshen up, and I will pick out runs and go into the final second or third up,” Rolfe said.
For the moment, Rolfe and his team will focus on the Cootamundra meeting that kicks off at 1.30pm.
Racing fans have a five-race-program to follow, while there are also fashions, a foot race and plenty of entertainment on and off course.