‘Off to Randwick goes Talbragar’ is what Sky Racing caller Phil Roberts had to say after the gelding’s terrific win in the Country Championships Northern Wild Card qualifier at Scone on Monday, and he is 100 percent on the money.
The $150,000 qualifier was the final opportunity for horses to make their way into the $500,000 Country Championships final at Royal Randwick on April 1, and with Aaron Bullock in the saddle, the Cody Morgan-trained Talbragar finishing strongly over the top of early leader Russley Crown (Rachael Murray, $13) to win by 0.87 of a length, while in third and two lengths back was the fast-finishing The Dramatist (Grant Buckley, $11) from the Rodney Northam yard.
Morgan is yet to win a Country Championships final, and while he qualified Pelerin as Wild Card in 2017, and Unbiased (2019), Ligulate (2020), and Anethole (2022) as the Hunter and North West qualifier winners in recent years, he believes Talbragar could be the ‘standout’ horse he needs to win.
“I haven’t got anything that goes like him,’’ Morgan told Sky Thoroughbred Central after the win.
“I’m sure I’ll go many years and not have a horse go 1000m to 1400m in a decent country race like that; they just don’t do it.
“I thought to myself, I’ve been lucky enough to qualify a few times, but I’ve never had the standout horse.
“I’ve never had a Noble Boy or Victorem; they’ve just been better than them, this guy is as close as I’ve had.
“They are that next step up. I don’t know if our horse is that, but I think he is potentially that. He’s won five from six and the only race he was beaten in is a Kosciuszko.”
Bullock did have to navigate a wide draw on Monday, and Talbagrar worked hard for the win, and Morgan wasn’t sure if the April 1 final would be too quick of a turnaround for his Snitzel gelding.
“It’ll come down to draws and stuff, but he’s offset a tricky gate there,’’ Morgan said.
“I just thought he could do it. Whether it takes too much out of him, I hope it doesn’t, and if Sydney was an extra week, it’d be ideal but it’s not so we will roll with it.”
Bullock, who won the Hunter and North West qualifier on the Paul Messara-trained Akasawa, will take that ride in the final, leaving James McDonald to ride Talbragar in the rich country-only race.
Bullock said he was always confident once he jumped well from the wide barrier.
“I drew wide, and I knew we’d land in front of nearly three quarters of them. It was matter of getting across without firing him up,’’ Bullock said.
“He’s sharp, he’s got a good turn of foot, and he puts himself forward. The first 150m he did overdo it a little bit. I was confident once he relaxed going to the first corner.”
With all regional qualifiers and Wild Cards now run and won, attention will quickly turn to the Country Championships final on April 1, and readers should keep an eye out for NSW Country and Picnic Racing’s annual runner-by-runner preview.
For all results from Scone click here.