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Image: Steve Hart
Coffs Harbour trainer Joanne Hardy will be looking to keep the consistent form rolling at Rosehill

Her Hinchinbrook gelding Endangered Species will line up in the Highway Handicap over 1500m, and looks to make it three wins on the bounce after solid victories at Lismore and on his home surface.

Formerly conditioned by team Hawkes, the four-year-old was an unraced online purchase for Hardy and has done a commendable job for connections with three wins, six placings and over $72,000 in earnings from just 15 outings.

“We bought him in an online Inglis auction in November 2020 for $25,000,” Hardy said.

“He’s been a good buy, he’s certainly paid his way. A win on Saturday ($46,400) would definitely put us a long way in front.”

Endangered Species will be looking to use Saturday’s contest as a springboard into next month’s Country Championships qualifying heat on his home track at Coffs Harbour, and Hardy sees this weekend’s hit-out as a litmus test to see if he can progress to that level.

“He’s in good form at the moment and we’ll see how he measures up with the rise in class to Highway grade,” Hardy said.

“He should get a run (in the Country Championships qualifier heat), he’s a 61 rater. But I think it’s important to bring him down and take him for a trip away and see how he goes stepping up.”

A win at Rosehill this weekend wouldn’t be the first for Hardy with her grand campaigner Real Time Warrior taking out the Country Classic there only two months ago at cricket-score odds. The seven-year-old Toorak Toff gelding will line up over the same journey of 2000m in the Benchmark 78 Handicap this Saturday.

“He’s an honest horse and he probably didn’t deserve to be 150-1 that day. Unfortunately I didn’t have a dollar on him,” Hardy lamented.

“He’s a better horse on top of the ground and he’s a better horse when he doesn’t carry a lot of weight.

“I think both horses look quite well placed.”

When asked if she had any other Country Championships candidates, Hardy was quick to nominate her Exceed And Excel gelding Mikado. Formerly trained by Ciaron Maher and David Eustace before spending some time with Kacy Fogden, the four-year-old has had three wins and a second from just seven starts since joining the Hardy camp.

“I’ve got him lined up (for the Country Championships), he’s probably going to go first-up into the qualifier,” Hardy said.

“He won three races for me last prep and came down for a couple of Highways. He was very unlucky one day at Randwick when having to press forward from a wide draw.

“He’s had a little break now and he’ll come back and have a barrier trial in about two weeks.”

The Country Championships qualifying heats commence on February 12 at Coffs Harbour with the $500,000 final taking place at Royal Randwick on April 2.

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