Inter-island clash in Country Championship Final

by Mike Love, Harness News Desk

A melting pot of horses will line up for the second running of the $90,000 Hydroflow NZ Country Championship Final at Addington Raceway this Friday.

The capacity 16 horse field, representing both islands, will battle it out over 3200m, after competing in a series of Country Cups races across New Zealand since August last year.

The Greg & Nina Hope trained Homebush Lad claimed the number 1 ranking, while the Graham Court trained Tom Martin is the lowest ranked horse in the field at 24th.

Up and coming horses, like the John Hay trained Wheels of Fortune, will meet well-established intermediate grade horses, like Brent and Tim White’s Better's Tart, alongside a past New Zealand Cup runner, the ever consistent Heisenberg for Team Dunn.

Five-year-old A Rocknroll Dance gelding Franco Norton has the best exposed form overall, and is the likely favourite, despite starting off the back mark of 20m.

Trainer Steve McRae is warning however his preparation has been far from ideal.

“It hasn’t been a real smooth ride.

“We haven't had a great couple of weeks with him to be fair. We had a few problems with him down south and missed the Southern Country Cups final down there, which would have been a perfect lead up to this race. He’s missed a bit more work than I would have liked.

“But his class will still have him in it.”

Franco Norton was superbly placed over the summer months, particularly down south where he won five from five in the region, including the Gore Grass Cup, Cromwell Cup, Fruit Bowl, and Winton Cup.

He has a career record of 10 wins from 21 starts.

Of the three North Island trained runners, Bet West, a 6 year-old Bettors Delight gelding, makes his Addington debut for trainers Logan Hollis and Shane Robertson, while the Mike Berger trained Cos I Can and Hesashorething, for Adrienne Matthews, both raced at Addington last week in the Uncut Gems.

Hesashorething trailed and rallied well to hold third, while Cos I Can got back and found the line powerfully, though never really gaining clear air, finishing seventh. He was 8.9 lengths from up and coming star Anything Goes, who won by 6 lengths.

Cos I Can's trainer, Mike Berger, is feeling optimistic about the four-year-old Always B Miki gelding's chances on Friday night.

“We’re not under any illusions. I think he’ll be a much better horse next time in. It will definitely be a test.

“He came through last week good. He’s eaten up and settled in well here at Dean Taylor’s.”

The 3200m has Berger full of anticipation.

“He’s always finding the line well, he’s run 2700m out real good, I’ve just got a gut feeling he’ll be a real good stayer.

“I’m really looking forward to it!.”

The majority of the field is untried over the 3200m, with Wheels Of Fortune, Heisenberg and Homebush Lad being the only victors at the distance. Of the remainder, Jimmy Arma, Artatac, Got You Covered and Homebush Lad will have their second stint at the championship.

Of the starters currently in single figures Franco Norton is at $3.50, with Wheels Of Fortune at $6, Cya Art at $6.50, Got You Covered $7.50 , Heisenberg $8, and Cos I Can ($9).

The race is at 8.26pm Friday. 

To see the field click here



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