It might not be the biggest field, but a quality line-up of nine gallopers will take on Friday’s Orange Showcase Sprint, and a case can be made for nearly every runner in the field.
The $35,000 1000m event has attracted some of the best country sprinters going around, with trainers venturing to Orange from all parts of the state.
Quiet Riot for Sydney trainer Bjorn Baker is the current $2.25 favourite, having been well backed in from an opening quote of $3.50, with the five-year-old boasting two wins in nine starts.
The Fastnet Rock gelding has raced in much tougher company throughout his career, winning at Warwick Farm and Canberra, but he has absolutely no wet form, which will be interesting if rain does hit the Orange track as hard as expected.
The Nick Olive-trained Proud Mia arrives here from Canberra with decent wet-weather form and returned from a spell in good order at Albury last start, leading throughout before finishing second to the impressive Boss Lady Rocks in the $75,000 Flat Knacker.
Shaun Guymer takes the ride on the $6.50 chance but drawing gate nine could be the tricky part for connections.
Another Canberra galloper is right in the market, with the Norm Gardner-trained Delacour the $4.60 second favourite.
The four-year-old is a smart type and is proven on rain-affected surfaces, and only three starts ago she won an Open Handicap sprint over the 1000m at Albury.
The four-year-old finished sixth last time out in the Albury City Handicap, but she was made to work overtime from the poor draw and was only beaten three lengths at the finish, but she gets in with the soft draw in this race and should be an improver.
Wagga visitor Blitzar from the Chris Heywood yard has been racing well this preparation, almost qualifying for the Country Championships final two starts back at Wagga over 1400.
The five-year-old won at Wagga over the 1000m back in January following a 14-week spell.
He then raced over 1200m and 1400m, finishing second and fourth respectively as connections eyed a spot in the Country Championships final before just missing out.
Last time out, the Deep Field gelding won over the 1300m at Cowra, beating some good country horses in the process.
The concern at Orange is the drop back in distance for the $7.50 chance and the potentially heavy track as he hasn’t won on a rain-affected surface in five attempts.
Another runner in the market with no wet form is Toto from the Todd Howlett yard.
The five-year-old is lightly raced, winning four times in 12 starts, but he is more than handy, having won races at Muswellbrook and Scone back in 2020, while he won a 1100m Benchmark 66 at Wyong last start before going to the paddock for a spell.
Honestly though, it’s hard to see why the Manhattan Rain gelding is in the market at $7, with the Newcastle runner boasting no first-up form, while all four of his wins have arrived on good tracks.
Mouse Almighty ($34) could be the value play if the track remains in the heavy range.
The five-year-old Wagga runner loves the wet, with the diminutive galloper able to keep on top of the ground in the muddiest conditions.
The Star Witness mare is coming off a good third in the Albury Flat Knacker, which was run and won on a good three surface, and from gate six at Orange, Mouse Almighty looks every chance.
As far as the outsiders, Witness Collector ($17) has been racing well for Michael Lunn, winning three of his last five starts, but the heavy track is a query, and this is a step up in class.
I Am Capitan ($19) is good fresh, and he doesn’t mind the heavy and there is no doubting Dean Mirfin will have the veteran galloper ready for a good race from gate two.
One only runner hard to get around in the Orange Sprint is the Bryan Dixon-trained Ecker Road, with the eight-year-old country cup horse returning over the shorts following a short spell, but she will be one to follow over more ground this preparation.
Race 1: Best bet 2, Best value 5.
Race 2: Best bet 10, Best value 8.
Race 3: Best bet 6, Best value 9
Race 4: Best bet 6, Best value 7.
Race 5: Best bet 8, Best value 1.
Race 6: Best bet 3, Best value 8.
Race 7: Best bet 12, Best value 10.
Race 8: Best bet 6, Best value 4.
Quaddie: 1,3,8,12 – 2,3,6,9 – 5,8,10,12 – 1,4,6,11 – $50 for 20%