TOP Taree trainer Bob Milligan may have missed his third win in the $150,000 Newhaven Park Country Championships Qualifier at Taree on Sunday but the family still celebrated with son, Glen, winning with filly Swamp Nation ($21).
Glen, 44, replied to the chairman of the Manning Valley Race Club, Greg Coleman, who said the Milligans had a habit of winning-- "It's not a bad habit to have."
The big crowd was enthralled with the day's action with the Qualifier in doubt as to the winner until the last few bounds when the three-year-old filly which cost $8000 drew to a half-length win over Wauchope filly Little Prophet ($19), trained by Colt Prosser.
Swamp Nation and three-year-old filly Little Prophet are now bound for the $500,000 Newhaven Park Country Championships Final at Royal Randwick on April 2.
The Manning Valley Race Club is looking for plenty of support on track with a special TAB meeting on April 2 to celebrate the two finalists in their endeavours.
"Unbelievable" is how Glen responded to the win, giving praise to head owner Graham Killen, from Newcastle for picking Swamp Nation to buy for $8000 and race with 15 other owners.
"She was bought as a yearling two years ago from the Classic Sales.
"She was so small you thought she would have to be wrapped in cotton wool.
"She now only weighs 430kgs, is narrow, but she tries hard.
"She wasn't brilliant away but then she wanted to go and Madi Derrick (apprentice jockey) gave her a good ride," he said.
Race favourite Chase My Crown ($3.10), trained at Taree by Joel and Wayne Wilkes, powered to the lead and looked headed for victory at top of the straight but then weakened with plenty making their moves.
Prosser was overcome with emotion as he was so keen to buy Little Prophet as a youngster but he found that he didn't have enough money to bid for her.
She was passed in but the owners wanted $20,000 for her.
Prosser was $5000 short but a friend offered the other $5000 and the filly was taken home.
She was having her ninth start following two wins and two seconds and was always in the leading three for Newcastle jockey Digger McLellan to hang on for second, a quarter of a length in front of Zaru ($14), trained at Taree by Matthew Robinson, which was last on settling and did well with a paralysing finish to record yet another placing, its 13th in 18 starts.
Five-year-old gelding Bladnock ($4.20),an emergency for the Qualifier, showed his colours with a nearly three lengths win for Port Macquarie trainer Greg Middleton and apprentice jockey Dylan Gibbons in the Tony Ball Racing Showcase Benchmark 58 Handicap over 1600m.
Middleton said of his galloper's back-to-back wins: "He has been a work in progress."
Dylan's father, Andrew Gibbons, had two wins, one of them being four-year-old mare Robarge ($6), trained at Tuncurry by Terry Evans in the Adrian Owen Veterinary Services Showcase Class 1 Handicap over 1000m.
Robarge just missed being nominated for the Qualifier due to its ratings but gave its 16 owners plenty of heart for the future.
"A tough win...it is the first time she has drawn a barrier," Evans said of the mare who in seven starts has had three wins and four placings.
Gibbons other winner landed some good bets, it being four-year-old gelding Tailoring ($2.60) which scored by a head for Gosford trainer Adam Duggan in the Club Taree Showcase Class 1 & Maiden Plate over 2000m.
A rare visit from Wyong trainer Louise Munce paid off with four-year-old mare Victorella ($5),ridden by Grant Buckley, scoring by a length in the Upbound Showcase Benchmark 66 Handicap over 1000m.
Munce said the mare (four starts for two wins and two seconds) "goes well fresh."
Newcastle trainer Mark Minervini's three-year-old gelding New Republic ($3.70),ridden by Mikayla Weir, was always on the pace to score by 1.5 lengths in the Jim Anderson Earthmoving Showcase Maiden Handicap over 1250m.
Cessnock trainer Larry Fairhall, a former Port trainer, had a good return to Mid Coast racing in winning the $40,000 Hogan Plumbing Group Showcase Country Maiden over 1400m.
His four-year-old gelding ($13) was always on the pace for jockey Serg Lisnyy to score by just over a length.
Four-year-old gelding Pee Dee ($8), trained by Pat Farrell and ridden by Ashley Morgan ended the meeting on a good track in leading all the way in the Mid Coast Automotive Group Showcase Class 2 Handicap over 1300m.