Leading country jockey Andrew Gibbons would love to get a winner or two to help pay for his wedding nuptials on Sunday when most of the aspirants for a place in the $150,000 heat of the $500,000 Country Championships will be competing in a race and a barrier trial at Taree's TAB meeting today.
He is hoping to get a run on one of the favourites for the heat with resuming local gelding Storm Attack being first emergency in the Benchmark 66 Handicap over 1257m, the race where many of the hopes for the heat will be having their final runs.
Gibbons was the leading Mid North Coast rider last season and is well on his way in emulating that feat this season.
His focus is on riding winners although he and his prized partner Keeley Gageler get married on Sunday and they will be forsaking the honeymoon at this stage in deference to his career.
Gibbons posted a career first in riding 100 winners at Scone on Tuesday and he has a good book of rides at Manning Valley Race Club's meeting on Friday.
Four-year-old gelding Storm Attack, trained by Wayne Wilkes, should it start and be an emphatic winner, will be in the mix for future championship rides among several strong hopes from the same stable, one including Bellastar which scored impressively in the $60,000 Queen Of The North at Port Macquarie recently.
Gibbons said Storm Attack notched two seconds in Highway races at Rosehill in September in what he termed "very good runs".
He won on the gelding at Taree over 1400m in August (the distance of the heat at Taree on February 23) and felt that the galloper going forward would be an improver.
Wilkes has Friday's race stacked with blossoming gallopers, they being Cartel and Good Excuse, both with imposing statistics, the first running sixth first-up from a spell and the latter resuming.
The biggest query for most of the runners is will they handle the heavy track conditions, many which have never raced on anything but good tracks before.
One that has run second on a soft and heavy track is three-year-old Port Macquarie gelding Acoustix, trained by Tas Morton, which has won its past two races at Taree and Port Macquarie.
Morton believes he needs a win to qualify for the heat but four wins and four placings from 15 starts keeps the gelding under notice.
He was confident of pressing the horse's credentials on his home track but Port's meeting was washed out.
Morton said Acoustix's work on Tuesday was "brilliant and I am hoping for a good run."
In the same boat is fellow Port trainer Marc Quinn who is confident that Gumshoe, a winner three times in the soft and one in heavy going, can run a good race.
He said the galloper's run for eighth and last in Sydney last start can be forgotten and Gumshoe has thrived in work since and was improving in fitness.
Then there is Taree mare Eyebea Danser which has freshness and dash on its side after running fifth to So Shy at Taree on January 13.
And there is plenty to like about Jamaican Dream from the Newcastle stable of Paul Perry which won two races at Taree before a spell and is coming to hand nicely with every run back.
The heat for Country Championships gallopers at Port's abandoned meeting get a second chance with the holding of a barrier trial solely for those aspirants after the last race, it having 10 starters.
Doug Ryan's selections
Race one: Makana 1, All A Lady 2, Henschel 3.
Race two: Penny Dreadful 1, Texas Storm 2, Starismo 3.
Race three: Elotrolado 1, Captain Solo 2, Listen Mate 3.
Race four: Hidden Hills 1, Discombe 2, Lucky For Some 3.
Race five: Justice Honor 1, Up The Stairs 2, Sundayinmanhattan 3.
Race six: Toguchi 1, Always Hot 2, Whatsin 3.
Race seven: Storm Attack 1, Acoustix 2, Gumshoe 3.
Race eight: Gold Bracelet 1, Hubble 2, Deep Dream 3.