As a two-time winner of the Country Championships’ Western Districts heat, Justin Stanley knows what to expect during one of the biggest days on the Dubbo Turf Club calendar.
And heading into this weekend’s edition of the race, Stanley anticipates his biggest challenge yet.
The Dubbo-based trainer has won the rich qualifier with Something Borrowed and Good Host previously and this year he will have four shots at glory.
There were 18 nominations in total for Sunday’s $150,000 race, which sees the first two past the post head to $500,000 Country Championships Final at Royal Randwick on April 6.
“I think this is one of the strongest heats we’ve had,” Stanley said after nominations were released.
“But (I’ve got) everything going to plan and they're probably as good as I could have them and all should be there in the final on Sunday.”
Defending western area champion Good Host is back after limited racing in the past year, while Stanley’s other contenders are The Rouseabout, Get To The Chopper, and Coroglen.
The latter’s lower rating means he appears the only one who may miss the final field of 14, which will be released on Thursday.
A Martin Placepick headlines the nominations, the gelding from the Coonamble stables of Cecil Hodgson having scored four wins and two seconds in his past six starts.
Eighteen nominations received for opening event of this year's Country @ChampionshipsRR. $150,000 heat to be held at @DubboTurfClub on Sunday. Two-time heat winner Justin Stanley has four put forward, as does Nyngan's Rodney Robb. 172 noms all up for eight-race showcase meeting. pic.twitter.com/PfaSHm9XX1— Nick Guthrie (@Nj_Guthrie) February 5, 2019
Stanley hasn’t been the only one to name the six-year-old as the one to beat, but he also singled out Allan Gibson’s California Fox and Rodney Robb’s quartet as ones to watch.
Nyngan-based larrikin Robb put forward Thermosa, Mango Liston, Huang Zhong, and Bells’N’Bows while Dubbo’s Clint Lundholm has three hopes in the form of Sprezzatura, Sons Of Bourke, and Ben Shoof.
Stanley’s build-up to Sunday’s event started last April, with Good Host tipped out for a lengthy spell almost immediately after running 12th in the rich final at Randwick.
The plan was always for him to have a second crack at the series while the likes of The Rouseabout and Get To The Chopper have also shown enough promise early in their career to have Stanley in a positive frame of mind.
“We’re where we want to be,” he said after months of work to get to this stage.
The confidence may be there and he may know what to expect on Sunday after contesting in each of the previous four Country Championships campaigns, but that doesn’t mean this week will be easy for Stanley.
The nominations are in but the experienced Stanley, who’s based at Dubbo but works his horses at Narromine, knows as well as anyone a week is a long time in racing.
I think this is one of the strongest heats we’ve had.Justin Stanley
Especially when you’re racing for the chance to take part in a $500,00 event at Royal Randwick.
“It’s really stressful and flat out,” he said of the week leading into the heat.
“You’re trying to do all you can but you don’t want to do anything wrong. Its nerve-wracking, especially on race day when you just hope it pans out.”
The eight-race showcase meeting, which has prizemoney rising to a minimum of $30,000 per race, received 172 nominations in total.
“We will be celebrating the finer things in life with a big day for fashions and racing, with the launch of the 2019 Fashions on the Field Series,” Dubbo Turf Club general manager Vince Gordon said.