It’s been like a game of musical chairs with the first two Country Championship Qualifiers however they should be back on track this afternoon when the NRRA entrants for the final at Randwick will be determined and the scratching of the early favourite has made the race somewhat of a lottery.


Here’s an interesting statistic for punters, when Toby and Trent Edmonds bring a first starter across the border to the Northern Rivers tracks of NSW, they have a 40 percent winning strike rate so Vivid Fortress should be watched with interest in the Maiden Plate (1015m). A three-year-old daughter of Sebring out of the Exceed And Excel mare Lesley’s Choice, Vivid Fortress was too good for her six rivals in a Gold Coast trial on February 3, racing away in the straight to win by close to four-lengths and running time in the process. If there is one small concern, Vivid Fortress was a touch slow away before quickly mustering speed and taking control of the 1000m trial. She will need an even getaway launching from an awkward barrier on Thursday, however we will leave that to Jockey Matthew McGillivray and if she brings her latest trial form to race day, she is close to over the line.

BONDI BOY (Race 6 No 1)

The move from Kembla to Coffs Harbour by trainer Donna Grisedale gives horses like Bondi Boy the chance to win a few races on the country circuit. One win from 13 starts for Bondi Boy is not the flashiest of winning strike rates but all bar two of his starts have been on the provincial and metropolitan circuit however the now four-year-old has a Wyong maiden win and six placings including a Canterbury third on his resume. It’s worth noting his record on soft and heavy tracks reads a win and a runner up finish from three starts which enhances Bondi Boy’s prospects in the CG&E Class 1 Handicap (1420m) with the track likely to be soft at Grafton on Thursday. Bondi Boy did enough resuming at the Gold Coast on January 25 finishing a 1-1/2 length fourth to rate a winning chance fitter second-up stepping up in distance. With conditions to suit and having just his third start in a country race, Bondi Boy looks over the odds at the $6.50 in early betting markets.

OUR ECHO (Race 8 No 7)

With Hellenism not contesting the NRRA Country Championship Qualifier (1420m), weight of numbers sways the race heavily in the direction of Matthew Dunn , who could potentially have seven of the 16 runners. Whilst it’s now short odds Dunn will provide the winner, sorting out which of the seven is the top pick is no easy task. Finally settled on Our Echo at the $11 as the value runner. A winner of two of his nine starts, Our Echo will be chasing back-to-back victories after winning at the Gold Coast on January 19 over 1200m and it’s worth noting he has a 1400m win at the same track which could prove to be a decisive form factor with two of the top three favourites in early betting, Gracie Belle a stablemate of Our Echo and Plonka from the Warren Gavenlock yard still to be proven beyond 1200m. Happy to go with Our Echo at the odds in a race that is wide open.