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Country NSW star Kurtley will use a benchmark race in Brisbane as an important stepping stone to two rich Cups in his home state.

The winner of the Dubbo Cup and Grafton Guineas last year, Kurtley will be having his second run this campaign in Saturday’s Coca Cola Amatil Benchmark 85 (1200m).

Kurtley’s record means he is having to carry big weights at home and his Tamworth trainer Leon Davies has booked in-form apprentice Priscilla Schmidt to bring him into the race with 56kg.

“He got 59 kilograms in the Guyra Cup (1400m) at Armidale first-up and he ran a good fourth. But he will get some weight relief in Brisbane which should be a key factor,” Davies said.

Davies said Kurtley would be fitter for the Armidale run because he had gone to the race after a longer than usual break.

Kurtley had two starts in Brisbane last year for two minor prizes in restricted races and Saturday’s race will be a lead-up to Davies’ immediate goals of winning the Tamworth Cup and Scone Cup in coming weeks before a return to Queensland.

“You have to think the Sydney carnival will be a bit strong so we will be looking more to Brisbane,” Davies said.

“Kurtley has shown he is up to the Brisbane races.”

The $80,000 Tamworth Cup (1400m) is on April 27 with the $200,000 Scone Cup (1600m) on May 16, the first day of the major two-day country meeting.

A Dane Shadow four-year-old, Kurtley was bred by his part-owner Tim Henderson from his mare Blue Lyric, a winner of two races over 2300 and 2400 metres, giving Davies confidence Kurtley will get a strong 2000m this campaign.

Davies comes from a non-racing background and learned his craft working for leading trainers Gai Waterhouse and Alan Bailey in the three years before taking out his licence five years ago.

He describes his operation as a boutique stable and also carries out pre-training on the property.

His best wins include the Gunnedah Cup, Wellington Cup, Dubbo Cup, Quirindi Cup, Armidale Cup, and the Coonamble Cup (three times).

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