Image credit: RLR Photography
By Rob Luck
Connections of Bollente and Media Vita have secured a spot in the finals of the Country Cups Challenge and Country Stampede to be held at Doomben on December 5, after their dominant wins in the opening heats at Longreach on Saturday.
Bollente’s win sets up a potentially mouth-watering clash with last year’s Country Cups Challenge in Deadly Choices, who won his qualifier on the same day at Mount Isa.
Bollente continued its rise to fame in the Central West with a dominant win in the Sprout Ag Longreach Cup Open Quality Handicap 1600 metres, racing away to win by nearly two lengths in what was arguably the strongest Longreach Cup field in the last decade.
The Sizzling gelding was giving weight to Townsville Cup winner Shiranda, but the 63.5kg proved no obstacle to Bollente.
In what was a slightly out of character run, Bollente dropped back to third last until the 800 metres, before jockey Matthew Gray raced wider on the track to avoid kickback and started to track Van Winkel into the straight.
At the top of the straight, Shiranda had surrendered the lead to Le Dude with Eschiele, Van Winkel and Rhyola coming with runs.
Gray bided his time on Bollente, producing a final burst 200 metres from home which saw him surge past the leaders and sprint clear leaving Van Winkel and Rhyola to fight out the minor placings.
The win further demonstrated the versatility of Bollente, with wins coming from both on and off pace positions.
The dominance has also increased as the race distance stretches, with Saturday’s victory now being the third win from four starts over 1600 metres.
Should trainer Ray Hermann push on to the final in Brisbane, he now has the luxury of having a place secured and being able to map out a race program to suit.
Leading Central West trainer Todd Austin also has the luxury of having qualified Media Vita after an outstanding win over Hazar and Zukas in the 1100-metre Top X Country Stampede Qualifier Open Handicap.
Jockey Brooke Richardson rode the perfect race on Media Vita, using barrier three to position her mount just behind the four leaders coming into the straight.
Switching around the leader’s heels 300 metres out, Richardson drove Media Vita through the centre and the Denman gelding responded with a sharp sprint to win by one-and-a-half lengths.
It was a top training performance by Austin, as Media Vita had not started since August 8, coming off recent wins and placings in open sprint races before coming into Saturday’s race with fresh legs, proving to be a decisive factor.
The win brought up a double for the Austin stable, earlier combining with Matthew Palmer to win the Garry & Desley Ballard Transport Benchmark 60 Handicap with the consistent Wicked Grimshaw, who has now recorded two wins and two placings from its last five runs.
Palmer produced the copybook ride by not contesting the lead on the noted speedster, and was able to settle Wicked Grimshaw behind the three leaders coming to the turn.
He waited patiently in the straight before snaring the run in the centre and punched Wicked Grimshaw right out to score an almost two-length win over Aquagem and Harvest Pride.
Trainer Ray Hermann and Jockey Matthew Gray earlier in the day recorded the first leg of their double prior to the feature win by Bollente.
The Hermann-trained Do I Have To - ridden by Dakota Graham - produced a powerful finishing burst to snare victory over Balius and Centaur in the final 100 metres of the 1600-metre Creevey Russell Lawyers Benchmark 50 Handicap.
Gray’s other winner came on the Patrick O’Toole-trained Golden Feathers in the Figure 8 Fencing Maiden Plate, when the relative newcomer to the stable upset favourite Tzar Bomba and Mon Tout to score convincingly, continuing the great run of success the hoop is currently enjoying.
Elsewhere on the day, trainer David Rewald continued his recent run of success when You’re Not Wanted led all the way to win the Geoff Grealy/Ryan Savage /Jenny Reed Memorial QTIS Class 4 Plate by four lengths over Coroglen and Hacksaw Ridge.
A noted front runner, You’re Not Wanted was taken straight to the front by Steven Galvin and gave nothing else a chance in the run to the line, maintaining its good record on the Longreach track.
A good betting move succeeded when Burden - backed into a $3.80 favourite - raced away to beat Sassy Style and Se Rendre by almost three lengths in the Outback Insurance Brokers Benchmark 50 Handicap over 1200 metres.
Jockey Tessa Townsend kicked the Clinton Austin-trained gelding clear in the straight to bring up win number two from four starts at the track, to go along with two minor placings.