Andrew Gibbons has ridden Lucciola Belle to win a heat of the Country Championship at Pt Macquarie.
Lucciola Belle and Texas Storm have joined Westlink and Sons Of Bourke as guaranteed starters in the $500,000 Country Championship final at Randwick.
The Wayne Wilkes-trained Lucciola Belle beat Texas Storm in Sunday’s Mid North Coast regional heat at Port Macquarie with the first two booking their spots in the final on April 6.
A week earlier, Westlink and Sons Of Bourke finished one-two in the Western Districts heat.
Jenny Graham, who won the final with Victorem last year, will have to rely on Awesome Pluck getting a start via the Wild Card at Muswellbrook a week before the final after his third as the well-supported favourite at Port Macquarie.
With Lucciola Belle safely in, trainer Wayne Wilkes will now plan her next step before the final.
“I’m extremely proud of her,” Wilkes said.
“Gibbo (Andrew Gibbons) rode her a treat. She got shuffled back early and he just stuck to the fence, prayed for a few gaps and he got them and she finished like a bonny mare.
“She’s come back this preparation much bigger and stronger and is on the improve all the time. Now we have to sit down with the owners and work out where we go with her.”
Glen Milligan, representing his trainer father Bob, said blinkers had helped Texas Storm.
“I think the blinkers sharpened him up and whether we leave them on in a month’s time we’ll wait and see,” he said.
The TAB has Lucciola Belle at $15 while Texas Storm is at $51.
The unbeaten Noble Boy heads the market at $4 but will have to qualify via the Goulburn heat on March 2.
The next qualifying race is the Southern Districts heat at Albury on Saturday.