Taree trainer Bob Milligan grabbed his third qualifier for the $500,000 Newhaven Park Country Championships Final with a dominating 3.5 lengths win with recently acquired four-year-old mare Charmmebaby ($5) at Manning Valley Race Club's $370,000 prizemoney meeting on Sunday, switched from Taree to Scone due to the big wet.
The mare, picked out by his son, Glen, about six months ago and bought for $14,000 with its mission being the MNCRA's $150,000 Qualifier, took its prizemoney to more than $160,000.
His father also qualified with Another Valley in 2016, which won a heat, and also with Texas Storm which was second to Lucciola Belle in 2019.
"Everything fell into place beautifully to win at Scone," Glen said of the mare owned by his family and four newcomers to racing from Sydney.
Bob, recuperating from near life-threatening injuries from a horse accident more than a year ago, watched the race at home and was thrilled with the win, it being helped along by his wife, Margaret, showing exceptional vigour riding the arm-chair.
"Grant Buckley rode another Valley and again rode the perfect race on Charmmebaby," Glen said.
The mare was last at one stage, made up many lengths to go nine-wide in the straight when a blanket could have been thrown over the packed field, to then blast to an emphatic win.
"They were going so quick at first and I followed the jockeys on the dangers." Buckley said.
"She keeps stepping up to the mark and is headed in the right direction.
Glen said he was impressed by the way the mare sprinted and she had pulled up well after the race.
Also qualifying for the final was my top pick, seven-year-old Kendall gelding Subtle Grey ($16), trained at Port Macquarie by Allan Kehoe, it having its first start since August 16, 2019, and bred by owner Les Tinkler from his foundation breeding mare Subtle Miss.
He also watched the race at home and was full of praise for Kehoe in having his favourite racehorse ready to run so well.
"It was a big achievement to get Subtle Grey back, especially over 1400m first-up as he was entitled to chuck it in.
"He has been unlucky bumping into good horses and has a lot of second placings to his name.
"He is one of my favourites...he is a trier," he added while praising the ride of replacement apprentice jockey Mikayla Weir.
Les added that he would have to dust down his good attire to watch the final at Royal Randwick on April 3.
A nose away in third was Chase My Crown ($8), trained at Taree by Joel and Wayne Wilkes whereas the favourite, $3.80 Monica's Star,also trained by the two, was eighth.
Racing was held on a good track, Glen Milligan, praising the shift to Scone as heavy rain would have caused the meeting to be abandoned or shifted due to heavy rain.
Again, Newcastle trainer Kris Lees and his jockey Andrew Gibbons starred with a winning double with Justitia ($8) in the De Bortoli Wines Showcase Plate over 2100m and with three-year-old filly Sequano ($2.70) which made it three wins from its past four starts in the Iron Jack Showcase Handicap over 1300m.
Taree trainer Ross Stitt and his long-standing jockey mate Robert Thompson combined to score with Ramsey's Memory ($8),having its sixth start, in the $40,000 2RE Showcase Country Plate over 1400m.
Stitt said the three-year-old gelding would be a better horse next campaign.
"That is my first win on the new Scone track," the trainer of thousands of winners said.
Other winners on the card were Pandora Blue ($4.60), trained at Wyong by Kristen Buchanan and ridden by Serg Lisnyy; Austeja ($4.60), trained by the Joel and Wayne Wilkes partnership and ridden by apprentice Dylon Gibbons, Engadine ($2.80), trained at Wyong by Stephen Farley and ridden by Buckley, and Port's Firefly Poppy ($5.50), trained by Jenny Graham and ridden by Ashley Morgan.