All roads in greater Sydney – from the M1 to the M2 and the Pacific Highway – this weekend lead to Royal Randwick for the running of the second Provincial Championships final.
Provincial trainers are, by the nature of their employment, transient at the best of times, however, since early March many have been happy to clock up the kilometres vying to qualify their horses at provincial tracks including Wyong, Kembla Grange, Newcastle, Gosford and most recently at Hawkesbury.
With a crack field of 15 of the best horses from provincially-trained tracks, the final, a race worth an exceptional $400,000, will form part of the brilliant day of racing for Day 2 of The Championships - Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes Day.
Newcastle-based trainer Kris Lees with a staggering eight horses in the race and Wyong-based trainer Kim Waugh with three contenders appear to have a mortgage on the outcome.
Lees said this has been the culmination of months of planning of the man most famous for producing County Tyrone to win the 2004 Metropolitan Handicap.
Powerline, Electric Power, Marple Miss, Parraay and Danish Twist have been joined by last-start winners Zestful and Rustic Melody as well as By Golly Molly.
“I started looking at this year’s series just before Christmas and worked out the likely horses with which we could target the qualifying races,” Lees said.
“A few I thought might be suitable prospects fell by the wayside for one reason or another, but it’s terrific for our various owners to qualify so many horses for next week’s final. I’m sure they will all have a great day at Randwick.”
Kim Waugh was more diplomatic when asked to assess the chances of her three stablemates Supreme Effort, His Majesty and Hetty Heights.
“They’re all similar horses, the three of them. They’ve all got a great turn of foot and I think it will come down to barriers and a bit of luck,” she said.
“All three have ticked over nicely since their last runs and will be in perfect shape for the final.”
Jockey Brenton Avdulla had ridden Supreme Effort to a win at Randwick but was committed to Hetty Heights who looks to have plenty of upside after a barnstorming win in the Newcastle qualifier (transferred to Wyong).
“I don’t think there’s much between them and Kim now has three live chances and I’ll be sticking with Hetty Heights,” Avdulla said. “She’s a pretty classy horse.”
This preview of The Championships is brought to you by Racing NSW. Charles Moon writes for Racing NSW Magazine, racingnsw.com.au and thechampionships.com.au