Some of the western area’s leading trainers have thrown their hat in the ring for the $1.3 million Kosciuszko after Racing NSW announced the richest race for country horses on Wednesday.
The formation of the race, which works under a similar concept as that of The Everest, sparked plenty of excitement across the state.
While slots for The Everest cost $600,000, the 12 Kosciuszko slots will be decided by a raffle after punters buy $5 tickets, making no horse in the state a certainty to get a start in the October 13 event.
But Mudgee’s Cameron Crockett is adamant any winning winning ticket-holder would be wise to link with him.
When the early market was released on Wednesday, Crockett had Nictock and Ori On Fire at $51 while Sharpe Hussler was at $101.
In other western hopes, Crockett’s fellow Mudgee duo Mack Griffith and David Smith had Most Exalted and Bezel also at $51 while Andrew Molloy’s Cowra-trained Zarhron was at $101.
Dubbo trainer Clint Lundholm didn’t have any horses in the opening market but said he could “dream” with hopes like Larlabrook and Joey’s Destiny.
It is Crockett, however, who appears one of the region’s leading hopes to land a slot.
The Mudgee trainer stated a horse like Sharpe Hussler is one not a lot of people would be familiar with given he hasn’t raced in the Country Championships or a Highway Handicap event in the city before.
Due to the lower class restrictions on both those events, Sharpe Hussler has never contested them but has carved out a successful career over short distances and only illness stopped the trainer putting him forward for the recent $160,000 Ramornie at Grafton.
“There’s been all the hype around the Country Championships and Highway (races) … while they’re awesome, they show the best up-and-comers not necessarily the best horses,” he said.
“There’s a lot of good horses around so the race won’t be a cakewalk and there’s a horse like (Brett Cavanough’s) The Monstar who has won a Group 2.
“For me he’s the type to win this race because he’s a seasoned campaigner and Sharpe Hussler would be competitive because he is too.”
Nictock, who as Crockett pointed out, has seven wins from nine starts on dry tracks is a proven performer in Sydney and would be another leading contender for a slot.
He’s endured a “terrible preparation” this time out but the trainer said he’ll be freshened up in order to get him back to the type of form which resulted in wins in seven or his first eight starts.
Lundholm is one of many who would be an outsider to land a slot but if one of the tickets does land with someone in this region, the Dubbo trainer has no doubt his stable could produce a strong run in the rich event.
“We can all dream. It’s a massive race and there’s quality horses but we’d love to think a horse like Larlabrook ( could compete),” he said, the gelding having won a Highway event in the past.
“He’s not firing right now and has had some issues and he’s looking like he’ll be back to his best soon.
“Then there’s someone like Joey’s Destiny and it might not be his grade but he’s never missed a hole (placing) and he came out in an open company race last time and ran second after being crook and that was a super run.”
For Cowra-based Molloy, the excitement has seen him bring leading sprinter Zarhron back from a spell earlier than anticipated.
“It’s pretty exciting. (Zarhron’s) in a paddock at Crookwell at the moment but now we’re bringing him down on Sunday. He usually wouldn’t come until the end of next month,” Molloy said.
“His chances are slim but they’d be slimmer if he’s not in the yard. I’m pumped.
“It’s probably a million-to-one chance but if you wanted one from around here he’d be hands down the best.”
Mudgee’s Smith is another who knows the class which will be on show in the $1.3 million feature but in Bezel he has a horse which is not out of place at Sydney tracks.
“He’s definitely the class act in my stable, I’m probably lucky to have him,” he said, Bezel having won an open handicap event at Dubbo comfortably last start.
“Care To Think, Danny Williams’ team and Victorem have the pace over the 1200, but (Bezel’s) one of the highest rating country horses getting around. Class travels a horse a long way, if we gained a spot we wouldn’t be shy to have a crack.”
It’s probably a million-to-one chance but if you wanted one from around here he’d be hands down the best.Andrew Molloy on Zarhron's hopes
One who won’t be in the running is Cosmologist, who raced in the Country Championships final for Bathurst’s Dean Mirfin.
After that feature, Mirfin opted to move the talented gelding on to a Sydney stable and he is now trained by Joseph Pride.
Racing fans can purchase a ticket for $5 at any NSW Australian Hoteliers Association (AHA) hotel that features a TAB outlet.
The 12 slot holders will be drawn on September 14.
They will then have to select a country NSW-trained horse to race on their behalf, subject to agreement being reached on the split of the prizemoney, in The Kosciuszko on Everest day, October 13, at Royal Randwick.