Armidale trainer Stirling Osland appears to have a strong hand as he prepares for Sunday’s $60,000 Armidale Cup.
Osland has both Kingstar Bullet ($13, Mikayla Weir) and Point Counterpoint ($3.10, Aaron Bullock) contesting the 1900m Open Handicap, and he will be hoping he can go one better after the latter of his two gallopers finished second to Beckford in the 2021 Armidale Cup.
Last year’s cup was a little different though, with the race transferred from Armidale to Tamworth just the day before, while the distance was reduced from 1900m to 1600m.
“It was a bit of a funny one. We didn’t find out until the afternoon before, and when it went to Tamworth, it went back to a mile,” Osland said.
“He (Point Counterpoint) ran a good race last year, but he ran into Beckford. It will be a little different to last year though; we carried 59kg last year, and after a good season of racing, we will carry a bit more (62.5kg), but that’s racing.”
Point Counterpoint meets the Troy O’Neile-trained Beckford ($4.80, Serg Lisnyy) again, and the two talented North West gallopers have developed a good little rivalry over the past 12 month, with Beckford just ahead on points after the pair contested the 2000m Country Classic at Rosehill Gardens last month.
Beckford flashed late in the $150,000 race to finish third, edging Point Counterpoint, who peaked on the run before finishing a good fourth.
The Armidale runner enters his hometown cup third-up, and Osland believes that will be the difference when they meet again on Sunday.
“I think we deserve to be favourite, but obviously it’s a good race and we come up against Beckford, who rolled us in the cup last year and again last start in that Country Classic,” Osland said.
“He will be better for the run. I think he missed the Big Dance wildcard qualifier, which would have had him two weeks out from the Little Dance, but because we missed it, we ended up being five weeks into the Little Dance and three and half weeks into the Country Classic, and he peaked on his run halfway up the straight and you could tell he was a run short.
“It’s worked out well for the Armidale Cup, and he should be right to go, plus there is the lack of travelling. He has been travelling to Sydney for three out of his last four starts, so he will appreciate being at home.”
Armidale isn’t as spacious as Royal Randwick and Rosehill Gardens, and it can be a real horses for courses type of track, but Point Counterpoint has raced there twice, finishing first and second.
“He’s only ever seen the place twice, and his second was his first ever start for us, and then he won a class one,” Osland said.
“He’s never seen a track like it again but at least we know he has gone around there before and raced well.”
The Armidale Cup is a qualifier for the $2 million Big Dance and $500,000 Little Dance, which will be run and won at Royal Randwick in November, and surprisingly, the Armidale qualifier hasn’t been dominated by city and provincial trainers.
After Point Counterpoint’s fourth in the Little Dance, Osland was looking for his five-year-old to take the step and hopefully qualify for the Big dance in 2023.
“We ran well in the Little Dance this year, and over the next 12 months, we would like to put ourselves in the position to have him maybe running in the Big Dance,” Osland said.
“Firstly, we need to get a win in one of these qualifiers, but he is racing well and working well, and we will see how he goes.”
Osland has a big team racing at Armidale, with Billabull (Mikayla Weir, $26) contesting the 1900m Class One/Maiden Handicap, while Cyber Attack (Brooke Stower, $2.25) goes around in the 1000m Maiden Plate, and Buffet Buster takes on the 1400m Benchmark 66 Handicap.
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Armidale tips, trials, and tribulations
Race 1: 6 Willinga Tyson – $2.90
Led throughout at Muswellbrook last start and from the good draw and on a firmer track, he looks tough to beat.
Race 2: 10 Prince Carlos – $5.50
Eye-catching effort when first-up last start at Gunnedah. Will be fitter for the run and carries no weight.
Race 3: 8 Young Henry – $23
Happy to take on trust here. Stepping up to a more suitable distance and does look very capable on trial form.
Race 4: 9 Nicator – $7.50 (Best value)
Gets in nicely in this Class Two. Is better on top of the ground, the nice draw helps, and he should run a good race.
Race 5: 6 Just Jacky – $10
Carried big weight and travelled wide last start at Gunnedah but still ran solid. Up in class and distance for this race, but down in the weights and looks a decent value play.
Race 6: 3 Superior Witness – $4 (Next best)
Ran a good first-up third in a 1000m Open Handicap at Muswellbrook and will only strip fitter for this second-up test.
Classy sprinter that boasts good form on top of the ground.
Race 7: 1 Point Counterpoint – $3.10 (Best bet)
The Armidale galloper looks primed third-up. Enjoyed back-to-back wins at Tamworth and Canterbury before finishing fourth in the Little Dance and fourth in the Country Classic.
Has won here before and the in-form Aaron Bullock takes the ride.
Race 8: 3 Koondeeman – $3.20
Made the black book last start when travelling wide before finishing strongly to run a solid third at Grafton.
Draws nicely here, so he should be closer to the speed, and being second-up, one would think he would stripper fitter.