Sunday’s Country Championships qualifier will provide an incredible boost for a huge amount of trainers and owners doing it tough in the state’s west.
Few people in the region can remember conditions worse than they have been in recent times and many involved in the racing game have been stretched to their limits.
Sunday’s Western Racing Association heat has $150,000 in prizemoney on offer while it also offers two tickets to the $500,000 final at Royal Randwick on April 6.
Darren Hyde and Rodney Robb will saddle up two of the leading contenders in Westlink and Thermosa, the hopes at $4.40 and $6 respectively on Friday while A Martin Placepick was a $2.40 favourite.
Both Hyde and Robb, and all involved in Sunday’s race, know being among the first two past the post at Dubbo Turf Club would not only be a career highlight, it would also massively help out their teams.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen it this bad, as far as the drought goes,” Dubbo-based Hyde said.
“There’s a lot of people out there struggling. A lot of people like Rodney Robb, a lot of his owners are all country people and farmers.”
Robb has been doing it incredibly tough, left to feed his horses, sheep, and cows by hand now with conditions in Nyngan and many surrounding areas resembling a dustbowl.
“This is the driest I’ve ever seen it in my lifetime,” Robb told Sky Racing recently.
“If you drive around our paddocks, we’ve got 1200-odd acres and there’s one dam with water in it.”
“Out there the conditions are horrendous and we really feel sorry for them,” Hyde added.
“The way things are going it doesn’t look like there’s going to be any relief either.
“Then with this the price of feed goes sky high and that’s another cost going to the owners.”
Despite all that, days like Sunday offer a welcome distraction and the chance to make things easier.
The $150,000 heat is the main attraction at Dubbo Turf Club but the showcase meeting has prizemoney raised to a minimum of $30,000 per race, with one maiden event worth $40,000.
“Racing NSW has done a enormous job with country racing in terms of the increase in prizemoney and things like Championships day,” Hyde said.
“For country trainers and owners, we don’t get to have a crack at them ($150,000 races) too often. And to do it here on the home track, it’s pretty exciting.”
Hyde has targeted Westlink at this race for almost 12 months, the gelding heading into the event after running third at Wellington last time out.
Robb has multiple hopes in the qualifier, with Thermosa headlining a quartet including Mango Liston, Huang Zhong, and Bells’N’Bows.
“Us country trainers, we haven’t got owners who spend half a million on horses so we pay with what we’ve got and hope we’ve got a good one,” Hyde said of the chance to race at Randwick.
Sunday’s qualifier jumps at 4.30pm.