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Art Cadeau is the current favourite for the Country Championships Final

The Racing NSW Newhaven Park Country Championships continues to achieve its goal of promoting country racing. In the process it provides an acknowledgement of the value of its country participants to the industry as well as offering those very participants a big financial carrot and an all-around highly enjoyable and exhilarating experience if they get through to the Country Championships Grand Final in the big smoke at Randwick.

It also continues to throw up stories out of left field and the Central Districts Qualifier at Mudgee, the latest qualifier to be decided, was no exception with Old Harbour being guided to victory by Kath Bell-Pitomac, who still rides under an apprentice license nineteen years after she kicked off her career in the saddle way back in 2002. That most unusual circumstance has occurred because of injury and motherhood, circumstances which has involved lengthy periods away from race riding.

The fact that Old Harbour’s trainer Michael Mulholland has already confirmed Bell-Pitomac as the horse’s rider at Randwick means that the Country Championships has now elevated Bell-Pitomac’s story to fairy-tale proportions.

But it was the comment of trainer Dean Mirfin, whose horse Hamogany flashed home late for a fast finishing second to Old Harbour at Mudgee to also qualify for the final, that perhaps best sums up what the Country Championships, and in particular, the Country Championships final means to the country trainers.

“It’s my Melbourne Cup,” said Mirfin.

“We aim horses for it every year. It’s a race I absolutely love. it is a big race. It is big prize-money and it is fantastic to have one to go in it.”

The Mudgee qualifier was the fifth qualifying race in the Newhaven Park Country Championships.

Three races … at Tamworth on 7 March, Coonamble on 14 March and a ‘Wild Card’ entry race at Muswellbrook on 21 March are still to be decided and they will complete the qualifying stage of the Country Championship.

Horses already through to the final are Baileys, Tara Jasmine (from Coffs Harbour), Art Cadeau Legwork (from Nowra transferred to Goulburn), Another One, Bautista (from Wagga Wagga), Charmmebaby, Subtle Grey (from Taree transferred to Scone) and Old Harbour, Hamogany (From Mudgee).

The Terry Robinson trained Art Cadeau is the current ruling favourite for the final at $4.60 followed by Leg Work and Tara Jasmine who share the second line on the betting boards at $8 with Sportsbet.

The Country Championships final takes place at Randwick on 3 April.

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