Mudgee trainer Mack Griffith knows what it takes to qualify a horse for the Country Championships final, having won the Central Districts qualifier in 2015 with Binalong Road (Hugh Bowman, $2.70) at Bathurst, and again in 2016 with Pera Pera (Aaron Bullock, $2.40) at Wellington.
On Sunday, Griffith won his third Central Districts qualifier in nine years, with Mitchell Bell guiding Amicus Curiae ($7.50) to victory in the $150,000 event at Mudgee.
The five-year-old stormed home strongly when defeating the fast-finishing Possibly So (Anthony Cavallo, $16) from the Andrew Ryan yard by 0.79 of a length, while 1.18 lengths back in third was the Dean Mirfin-trained De Forerunner (Reece Jones, $5).
Griffith has always held a good opinion of the Choisir gelding, which finished eighth in the Central Districts qualifiers at Mudgee in both 2021 and 2022.
“He is a horse that’s always showed a stack of ability,” Griffith said.
“He won his first two starts, so he had the ability there, but once he got into harder grade, he couldn’t do it on ability, and he had to learn his craft.
“We rushed him into the first two heats last year and the year before, because we knew he had the ability, but he wasn’t mentally there, but this year, he was there, and we were really keen.”
Amicus Curiae finished second in the qualifier Prelude over 1200m at Bathurst earlier this month, and his trainer said it was always the plan to attack the Mudgee qualifier third-up.
“His last two preps he has won third-up over 1400m, and it was his 20th start today, so if he had any more starts, he couldn’t go in it, so it was a long plan, but it was a gem of a ride by Mitchell Bell,” Griffith said.
As far as Amicus Curiae and how he compares to the likes of Binalong Road and Pera Pera, Griffith believes he can be just as good.
“He is up there with him,” Griffith said.
“The other two horses are very good horses, and they went on to win multiple races, and he’s there, and now he is physically and mentally right, he is ready to go.”
As far as final preparations for the $500,000 Country Championships final, which will be held at at Royal Randwick on April 1, Amicus Curiae will head into the race fresh.
“We will work out a plan, but we won’t race him until then,” Griffith said.
“He goes a bit better fresh and even though it’s 1400m, he will sit back and cruise between now and then.”
It really was a gem of a ride by Bell, who rode the original Country Championships winner back in 2015 on the Todd Willan-trained Artlee, and he explained that he had a good ride on Amicus Curiae, which allowed the pair to finish strongly and take home the win in the rich country-only event.
“He didn’t have all the luck in the world, but we were able to get the job done easy,” Bell said.
“We always thought there was going to be really good speed, and it was the biggest field of the day, and that generally pumps a bit of speed into the race.
“After they went around 300m, they sorted themselves out easy, and I was able to travel and travel good, and I wasn’t trying to get under him and make him work too early, and I just travelled with him and got the job done.”
Amicus Curiae and runner-up Possibly So will now prepare for the $500,000 final, while the next Country Championships qualifier will be held in the Southern Districts at Albury on Saturday before the Hunter North West qualifier at Tamworth on Sunday.
For all results from Mudgee today click here.