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Last years Country Championships Final winner Gracie Belle

The 2021 Newhaven Park Country Championships, a concept which was launched by Racing NSW in 2015 to ‘support and promote NSW racing in country areas,’ kicks off at Coffs Harbour on Saturday with the race, not surprisingly, attracting a full field.

The John Shelton trained Tara Jasmine is a clear favourite in the early betting at $2.50 with Sportsbet for the Coffs Harbour contest.

Tara Jasmine was a comfortable winner at Grafton over 1100m on debut back in October, coming home two lengths clear of Le Figaro with the latter franking that form by winning next time out.

Tara Jasmine then finished runner-up in her second start before coming back after a two month break from action to win again, also at Grafton but this time over 1200m. The emphatic 4.75 length winning margin there suggests she will have no problem with the step up to 1400m on Saturday and it is that run which has carried her to the top of the betting boards.

Tara Jasmine will be ridden by Mikayla Weir.

Only three other runners are currently quoted in single figures.

They are Plonka and Maslow (both at $7) and Northern Wilderose ($9.50).

Plonka is third-up and has been stepping up the distance test at each start since resuming. He does have a win over the distance to his credit. Maslow, a four-time winner, will be having his second run for trainer Edward O’Rourke since transferring from the Toby and Trent Edmonds stable while Northern Wilderose was a runner-up, first-up last time when turning in an encouraging performance.

If you are looking beyond those runners and think that good form is winning form, have a glance at Jacksprat, who will be bidding for four wins in a row after his successes at Ballina (twice) and Lismore. He is …. wait for it … a $51 chance.

The Coffs Harbour Country Championships Qualifier is the first of seven qualifying races which will be held at seven different venues, each one representing a particular racing region in NSW.

These individual races, which are restricted to horses under the care of country trainers based in those regions, are worth $150 000 each. An eighth ‘wildcard’ race for $50 000 is also on the schedule giving runners a last gasp opportunity to make the Country Championship final … where a really big carrot awaits, namely a $500 000 race at Randwick on Day 1 of The Championships on 3 April.

The first and second placed runner in each qualifier goes through to the final.

All of the Country Championship action takes place over a seven-week period with races at Coffs Harbour, Nowra, Wagga Wagga, Taree, Mudgee, Tamworth, Coonamble and Muswellbrook to follow before Grand Final Day at Randwick.

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