By Craig Sheppard
We’re approaching the end of the qualifying stages of the 2019 TAB Battle of the Bush series. Four more horses will book their spots in the final at Eagle Farm on June 22 this Saturday at Mareeba, Bowen, Cloncurry and Goondiwindi.
A number of familiar faces will again be seen with the Goondiwindi race providing a good guide to the final with qualifiers Fab’s Cowboy and Marksfield sizing each other up.
Exceedingly Kool (2) has been racing in good form lately. He’s on a quick back-up after finishing a close second at Atherton over 1000m last week. The start prior he put in a good showing at Townsville but was out outgunned late to finish 1.3 lengths from the winner. This looks the right race for him.
Starena (4) won at Gordonvale when resuming over 1100m. She then went to Townsville and ran on well to finish just under two-lengths from Sweet Perfume. She steps up to a distance she has limited success over (16 starts for 1 win) but given the way she ran last start, she’s up to it.
Banshee Jet (5) won in nice style at Atherton when resuming over 1000m. He then was narrowly beaten at Einasleigh over 1220m. He had limited luck when racing three-wide last start at Cairns, ultimately fading for a 4.5 length seventh. He draws nicely here and can hit back.
Stellar Knight (1) already has a spot in the TAB Battle of the Bush final at Eagle Farm after winning the Home Hill qualifier two weeks ago. It was a big reversal in form for the Olivia Cairns trained gelding after several races where he finished a long way behind the winner. Now that he’s back in form, he can feature here.
Little Stryker (6) enters this race on the back of a win at Townsville over 1000m. She found the line strongly to arrive in the shadows of the post. The extra 100m here looks ideal and it is a distance she has raced well over previously.
The Greatest (3) battled it out with Stellar Knight in the Home Hill qualifier for the majority of the race but was overpowered late, finishing a length away in second. He’s been building up to a win each start this preparation.
Damgoodchoice (4) resumes here following a 39-week spell. He generally runs well fresh so expect a bold showing here. He finished last preparation with three wins in a row including a big win on Birdsville Cup day. He has a great record over this course and distance (3:2-1-0).
Deadly Choices (8) has a wide gate to contend with but comes here in good form. He resumed last start in the Mount Isa qualifier and ran well for second, finishing 1.25 lengths from Split The Atom. He’ll be fitter here and has won two of three second-up. He finished last preparation with a huge 8.25 length win at Mount Isa when carrying 63.5kg. Looks right in this.
Galea Warrior (7) was never challenged when winning by 6.5 lengths at Hughenden last start over 1200m. He draws the inside gate here and is undefeated in two starts at the track. He could prove hard to catch.
Marksfield (4) has already qualified for the final at Eagle Farm after winning at Bundaberg last start. He worked early to find the lead before fighting strongly to claim a narrow victory. He won the start prior at Chinchilla. He should enjoy a great run from barrier 4.
Fab’s Cowboy (1) enters his fourth Battle of the Bush qualifier this series. He booked his spot in the final by winning convincingly at Gladstone. Since then he has finished fourth at Longreach and won the Cunnamulla qualifier easily. He draws the outside gate but is tough as nails so as always has to be considered a major player.
Drum Master (9) chased well but was unable to catch Machu Picchu in the Warwick qualifier and had to settle for second. Besides a minor blemish at Nanango he had been racing in great form. He should get all the favours from barrier 2.