FOLLOWING a sizzling trial win at Taree on Monday, Victorem looks poised for glory in the $150,000 Country Championships qualifier at Port Macquarie this Sunday, although the final decision to face the starter is set to be determined by stewards.
The gelding was scratched from a race at Gosford in January after an elevated white cell count was discovered in a routine pre-race blood sample.
The Jenny Graham stable advised that a laceration in the horse’s mouth was discovered and treated with antibiotics, but an engagement in the Championships Preview was curtailed following a low red blood cell count reading.
The final outcome will be made by stewards after Victorem arrives at the track on Sunday with an extremely encouraging trial performance at Taree during the week putting the writing on the wall for a forward showing, if leave to race is granted.
After being allowed to settle near the tail of the field early in the barrier trial, Ben Looker made a move approaching the home turn on the I am Invincible galloper to race past Northern Knight for a comprehensive victory by over two lengths.
The most impressive part of the work was the way Victorem settled early and was allowed to cruise past the leaders with ridiculous ease despite being nursed along for the majority of the journey.
Looker would have been encouraged by the development in stark contrast to the initial run at Casino when he rode an immature debutant, which buckjumped at the start and made up many lengths to be beaten just behind the placegetters.
The gelding has been unbeaten at all of his next runs, including victory at Randwick in Highway company, and looks to have recovered from the slight setback which prevented a start in the prelude a couple of weeks ago
So the stage is set for Ben Looker and Victorem to continue their great association with victory in the Mid North Coast Country Championships heat and start the road to the $500,000 Country Championships climax at Royal Randwick over 1400 metres on Saturday April 7.
The Graham stable has a further strong hand in the race with Portatorio and Awesome Pluck also engaged, with both having undeniable chances following wins at their most recent outings.
Portatorio landed the prize at Taree in open company in January and it is significant that champion jockey, Robert Thompson, has been engaged for the ride on the Oratorio gelding, while Awesome Pluck was successful at his home track a couple of weeks ago.
The depth of the competitors is significant with last year’s district representative, Cogliere, having a recent win in a Port trial over Portatorio in preparation for the assignment.
Marc Quinn has engaged dual Melbourne Cup winning rider, Corey Brown and there is a great deal of confidence for the Pluck gelding, which was responsible for competitive performances in town during his previous campaign.
Popular Taree trainer, Wayne Wilkes, has a couple of real chances headed by the 2017 Queen of the North winner, Shotgun Roulette, and Fuel engaged together with the first emergency, Gripped.
Shotgun Roulette was responsible for a strong resumption of racing in this year’s Queen of the North behind Ellie’s Encore and the Casino Prince mare will derive a great deal of benefit from the outing.
Fuel has been a model of consistency for connections while Gripped is a dual acceptor, who will be hard to beat in sixth event if unable to fulfil the engagement in the feature.
Flinders Dragon is the sole representative from the astute Queensland stable of Danny Bougoure and if the connections make the journey down the highway having been unable to gain a start at the Gold Coast meeting the previous day, will be very competitive in the third race.
The Showcase racing action features massive total prizemoney of $370,000 and starts at 12.50pm with the last on the eight-event card set down for 5.15pm.
Race 1: John Oxley Motors 3YO Maiden Hcp (1100 metres)
1 Shoreditch, 8 Heaven Help Me, 2 Daybreaker
Race 2: Prime 7 4YO & UP Maiden Hcp (1100 metres)
1 Newsfan, 5 Natural Image, 6 Princess Wildfire
Race 3: De Bortoli Wines BM 60 Hcp (1500 Metres)
9 Flinders Dragon, 3 Forever Alone, 5 Cantillate
Race 4: tab.com.au Country Maiden Plate (1500 Metres)
6 Wallaman, 3 Natural Predator, 5 Wolfram
Race 5: Panthers Port Macquarie BM 70 Hcp (1800 Metres)
4 Rage Against, 8 Manhattan Road, 9 Art Attack
Race 6: Schweppes Country Class 2 Plate (1100 Metres)
2 Gripped, 10 Golden Comet, 12 Latitude
Race 7: MNCRA Country Championships Qualifier (1200 Metres)
5 Victorem, 2 Cogliere, 9 Shotgun Roulette
Race 8: Carlton Draught BM 55 Hcp (1100 Metres)
8 No Qualm, 1 Jemily, 2 Kate’s Pearl