Local trainer Graham Payne was overcome with emotion when his four-year-old gelding Baileys finished over the top of his opposition to take out the Country Championships Qualifier at Coffs Harbour which was the opening leg of the series.
It was a win against the odds, both on the betting boards, where Baileys was largely neglected at $15 (Sportsbet), and in the running of the race itself, where Baileys had to come from last on straightening to make up at least eight lengths on the leaders.
And Baileys didn’t even get going immediately. If there was any hint of good fortune in his win it was that wily, veteran rider Scott Galloway had got Baileys onto the back of the $1.75 favourite Tara Jasmine, who was also racing well back at that stage, and, as the main fancy quickened, so it helped carry Baileys into the race.
Approaching the 200m mark, both Baileys and Tara Jasmine clicked through their gears. There were still eighth horses in front of them at that stage, but now these two runners were picking off those eight contenders in double-quick time.
Galloway had to twice shift marginally off the heels of Tara Jasmine in the run home, but now he had a clear path alongside the favourite and, with Galloway’s strong urging, it was the Graham Payne trained runner who finished strongest of all.
The last time Payne took one of his horses to Randwick, it finished third in a Highway. That was back in early September last year when Tower Road finished third, picking up a prize-money cheque of $7 750.
The Coffs Harbour qualifier alone was worth $76 500 to the winner and, with Baileys win, Payne has booked his ticket for a return visit to Randwick where Baileys will now contest the Country Championships final Randwick on Day 1 of The Championships on 3 April.
The Coffs Harbour qualifier runner-up Tara Jasmine has also qualified for the final.
That will be an entirely different challenge and, as a $500 000 race, one which offers huge financial incentives.
Mouth-watering stuff for country trainers … which is just the way Racing NSW wanted it to be when they first floated the concept.