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2019 TAB Battle of the Bush Final Contenders

By Craig Sheppard

The big day has finally arrived! Saturday’s TAB Battle of the Bush Final is the culmination of sixteen qualifying races that began on April 20 at Gladstone. Here’s a look at some of the leading contenders looking to be crowned 2019 Battle of the Bush champion.

Deadly Choices (5) enters the final in terrific form. The five-year-old gelding resumed in the Mount Isa qualifier over 1100m. He finished off nicely but arrived too late and had to settle for second behind Split The Atom. Last start he stormed home to claim the Cloncurry qualifier over 1000m. The power he displayed at the end of that race suggests that the 1200m at Eagle Farm will be to his liking. He’s drawn a wide gate here which isn’t ideal but there looks to be good speed in the race which should see him able to find a spot. Blake Shinn taking the ride is a massive positive. The fact that he has had only had two starts this preparation could  

Kakakenny (4) has been flying! He created quite an impression when flying down the outside to claim the Longreach qualifier over 1100m. He then went to Aramac where he proved to be in another class, winning by 5. 25 lengths. He rounded out his Battle of the Bush preparations at Barcaldine with a close second to Hanover Square where in his customary style, he flew home. He’ll settle back in the run and look to come home over the top of them. The expected strong speed will aid his cause.

Bush Caviar (2) will be looking to avenge his heart-breaking second placing in last year’s Battle of the Bush final. On that day he looked the winner but was run down in the shadows of the winning post by Mason’s Chance. He looks to have been building nicely towards the final. He resumed in the Mount Isa qualifier where he hit the front in the straight but the 65.5kg took its toll and he weakened late. Two starts back he battled it out with Fab’s Cowboy in the straight at Cunnamulla but ultimately had to settle for second. It was a very good run considering he drew the outside gate and was giving Fab’s Cowboy 3kg. He was again in the firing line in the Barcaldine qualifier for the majority of the race but again the big impost was against him. Significantly he drops from carrying 64.5kg to 58.5kg, he won’t know himself!  From the good gate with Jim Byrne in the saddle, he’s a massive chance to go one better this year.

Fab’s Cowboy (1) is a country marvel who has won 30 races from 65 starts. He was the first horse through to the final courtesy of an emphatic four-length Gladstone win. Since then he has competed in three other qualifiers. Those have resulted a close fourth at Longreach and also a half-length second at Goondiwindi last start. In between those runs he proved far too strong for Bush Caviar at Cunnamulla. The wide gate and having to carry 62kg (3.5kg more than any other horse) are undeniably negatives. However, he’s a quality horse that can never be discounted. It would be a fitting ending to the 2019 series if country legends Fab’s Cowboy and his jockey Dan Ballard were victorious!

Marksfield (3) could be the forgotten horse in this year’s final. He fought strongly to win the Bundaberg qualifier in early May. Last start he was only a length behind Music Scene when finishing third in the Goondiwindi qualifier. In Marksfield’s favour is that he’s competed strongly at times in City class races. In February this year he was narrowly beaten by Mr Markou in a 1 metropoliation win race at Doomben. If he can get some luck from the awkward barrier, he’ll be fighting out the finish.

Machu Picchu (9) is looking to make it three wins on the trot following her wins in the Warwick and Nanango qualifying races. On both occasions she has gone to the front and shown plenty of determination to hold on to win. She’s drawn beautifully in barrier 3 and should enjoy a great run on the speed. She could be suspect late if the speed is on.