Kosciuszko shap­ing up as Coun­try redo

The Sportsman Weekend - - News - SHAYNE O’CASS

IN some ways, to­mor­row’s in­au­gu­ral ATC The Kosciuszko (1200m) is a re­run of the Coun­try Cham­pi­onships Fi­nal from the au­tumn – plus one no­table ad­di­tion only this race is worth more than dou­ble in prize­money and pres­tige.

Like the $13m TAB Ever­est (1200m), the Kosciuszko has a field of 12 run­ners, each one selected by slot hold­ers, but un­like the Ever­est slot hold­ers, th­ese are ev­ery­day pun­ters who clearly saw the form race they wanted to source their rep­re­sen­ta­tive from.

That race was the Coun­try Cham­pi­onship.

To­mor­row’s 12 Kosciuszko hope­fuls in­clude five horses that ran in the Coun­try Cham­pi­onship Fi­nal start­ing with tri­fecta; Vic­torem, Don’t Give A Damn and O So Hazy.

To those we can add Snitz, who was fifth to Vic­torem and Sun­craze who was 4.5-len away in ninth place.

The no­table ad­di­tion to the field is

Mon­star who brings Ever­est form to the table hav­ing al­most beaten Redzel in The Shorts.

Vic­torem’s trainer Jenny Gra­ham was the un­wit­ting ben­e­fi­ciary of some bad luck for con­nec­tions of Kosciuszko fancy Care To Think who was an­nounced as a with­drawal on Wed­nes­day morn­ing open­ing the way for her raw and tal­ented geld­ing Awe­some Pluck to gain a start.

The Gra­ham pair have met on race day only once with hon­ours go­ing the way of Vic­torem in Cham­pi­onships Qual­i­fier at home at Port Mac­quarie.

Vic­torem won by 1.1-len that day and has earnt six times what Awe­some Pluck has but is there re­ally that much be­tween the two four-year-olds?

“Vic­torem is a lit­tle bit more adapt­able,” Gra­ham be­gan. “Awe­some Pluck has got plenty of abil­ity but he is just that bit raw and beaten him­self a cou­ple of times.

“Ben Looker has had so much luck and suc­cess on Vic­torem but in say­ing that, he rode Awe­some Pluck in his last trial and he just said “Gee, I’d like to ride them both!”

That trial was af­ter the last race at Port Mac­quarie Satur­day where Awe­some Pluck man­aged to draw out by over 8-len on his near­est ri­val with the ears pricked for the most part.

Both of Gra­ham’s geld­ing’s are ‘one for one’ on heavy tracks; Awe­some Pluck won by 5.5-len a Heavy 9 at Ta­ree while Vic­torem’s first ca­reer win came with a mar­gin of by 4.3-len on Heavy 10 at Kempsey.

“I’d pre­fer it dry but they both han­dle it rea­son­ably well,” Gra­ham said. “Prob­a­bly Awe­some Pluck han­dles it bet­ter but Vic­torem does get through it.

“I have been work­ing on them for a lit­tle while now so I am con­fi­dent the horses are fit and well.”

Melinda Turner (left, Jenny’s daugh­ter), Jenny Gra­ham (cen­tre) and Shane Con­roy (Jenny’s part­ner) with horses Por­ta­to­rio (left), Vic­torem (cen­tre and in­set) and Awe­some Pluck (right).

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