Kody Nestor has been saying for some time Activation potentially has the most upside of any horses in his stable.
Previously trained by Chris Waller, Activation had always been set for this year's Country Championships series since arriving with Nestor but had a habit of doing things wrong.
He wasn't perfect again on Tuesday but the quality was clear to see as the four-year-old produced a powerhouse run home from last to win the $150,000 Western Districts Country Championships Qualifier (1400m) for his Dubbo trainer.
The result made it successive wins in the qualifier for Nestor, who has quickly cemented himself as one of the most exciting trainers in the bush, after Sneak Preview beat home stablemate Fast Talking in last year's edition of the race.
Nestor went close to another quinnella on Tuesday, only for a tiring Jailbreak ($1.95, Anthony Cavallo) to be overhauled by the Kylie Kennedy-trained Wild Rocket (Mathew Cahill, $4) late on and condemned to third spot.
Activation and Wild Rocket now advance to the $500,000 Country Championships Final at Royal Randwick on April 3.
"He doesn't have the best pattern but if he goes to Randwick the track will really suit him," Nestor told Sky Thoroughbred Central after the win.
The qualifier was originally meant to be run on Sunday but heavy rain and a large amount of surface water on the Coonamble track meant only two races were completed before racing was abandoned that day.
The rest of the meeting was postponed to Tuesday and Nestor was forced to scramble as Activation's original jockey Grant Buckley and James Innes Jnr, who was booked to ride the Dubbo trainer's third hope Eva's Deel, were both already locked in to ride at Hawkesbury that day.
Mikayla Weir took the ride on Eva's Deel while Nestor got former Country Championships Final winner Ben Looker to make the trip down from Port Macquarie to take the ride on the eventual winner.
"I was umming and ahhing about whether to come but my manager made the right decision to make me come and I'm very thankful to pick it up," Looker said after the win.
"He's a very nice horse going forward, it was a very good win. He was very strong through the line."
Kody Nestor and Kylie Kennedy are off to @royalrandwick for the @NewhavenPark Country Championships Final after Activation downed Wild Rocket to win the WRA Qualifier at Coonamble. Nestor's Jailbreak ran third. @tabcomau@DubboTurfClub@NarromineRacespic.twitter.com/QZPpgivABv— The Championships (@ChampionshipsRR) March 16, 2021
Looker and Activation ($7) had earlier been the worst out of the gates while the Brett Robb-trained Skullharderson ($51) set the pace up front with Jailbreak not far behind.
Jailbreak took control as the field rounded the bend for home but the one question about the favourite was always whether he could hold off the backmarkers late on.
Jailbreak was gallant but he had no answer to Activation, who ran third carrying 61kg first-up at Mudgee last month, who came from last entering the straight and flew home to score an eye-catching one-length win.
"He just does a few things wrong," Nestor said of the winner.
"I said to Benny just ride him out the back door and get him to the outside. He's got a really good turn of foot and I was pretty confident he'd run a good race today.
"He dropped a lot in weight and I think all three of mine went really well so I'm happy for all the owners."
While Kennedy missed out on the win, the Narromine trainer was still delighted to secure passage through to a first Country Championships Final.
Wild Rocket was just the second horse Kennedy had raced in a qualifier but she went in as one of the main contenders after winning four of her past five starts before lining up at Coonamble.
"Now it's just the worry of getting her to Sydney in one piece," Kennedy laughed.
"Congratulations goes to Kody and the team, they do a great job, and I'm excited.
"She'll have an easy week and a bit now (before the final) and we'll see what she does. She's always consistent."
Nestor filled three of the first four spots as Eva's Deel ran home well to finish fourth behind Jailbreak.
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