Ben Looker has ridden Victorem to win the first Country Championship qualifying heat.
In what she has described as her biggest moment in racing, popular Port Macquarie trainer Jenny Graham has qualified two horses for the $500,000 NSW Country Championship Final at Randwick.
Graham had three runners – Victorem, Awesome Pluck and Portatorio – in Sunday’s first $150,000 qualifying heat at her home track with the first two going to the 1400m-final on April 7.
The stablemates ran the trifecta with Victorem ($1.90 fav) beating Awesome Pluck ($4.20) by 1-1/4 lengths with Portatorio ($10) another long head third.
“It’s awesome, so awesome,” Graham said.
“I wanted them all to run so well and they did.
“Every jockey rated them super. I’m so happy.”
Victorem has won four of his five starts but has had a few problems with his race craft.
After his win in a Highway race at Randwick on December 16, he was sent back to the barrier trials when he buck-jumped after the start.
He passed that test and had no problems on Sunday with his jockey Ben Looker happy with his progress.
“He jumped good and I got one-off Awesome Pluck and saved ground on the corner,” he said.
“He will run 1400 (metres) with his eyes closed and the further he gets into his preparation the more relaxed he is.”
If she chooses, Graham can still try to get Portatorio into the final via the wild card heat at Muswellbrook on April 1.
Naming rights for the final have been retained by Newhaven Park with the Kelly family to sponsor the race for the next three years after its first in 2017.
All participants will also be invited to a race-eve cocktail party at the Kellys’ famous Doncaster Hotel, near Randwick Racecourse.
“The country championships fairy-tale captures the hearts and minds of all racing people,” John Kelly said.
“It gives grass roots racing folk a chance to compete on the biggest stage. We just wanted to be a part of it.”