IF the sizeable crowd was not a good enough indicator that Sunday’s Country Championship series meeting was a big success for Bathurst Thoroughbred Racing, the trainer who won the rich feature race has also offered his thumbs up.
Bathurst’s Tyers Park hosted the first of seven $100,000 Country Championship qualifiers on their bumper Sunday program, Binalong Road being first past the post for a very happy Mack Griffith.
“It was very satisfying and this is a good concept by Racing NSW,” Griffith said.
“As long as he had luck I thought he’d win and after they went 200 metres, I knew he’d win.”
It was only the second start in 15 months for the injury-plagued six-year-old, who has now firmed in from $15 to $11 to win the Country Championships series final. It will be staged at Royal Randwick on April 4.
“He’s had two tendon injuries and while some horses come back from them, some don’t,” Griffith said.
“He’ll have an easy week in the paddock and then have one trial before going straight into the final.”
Runner-up One Last Poet was bred by co-owner John Hunter, who also has a small share in Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist and has won many big races, including the Doomben Cup with Mawingo with fellow co-owner Stewart Rodgers.
“We’ve had a good run,” Hunter said.
“We had her mother [Little Poet] and she won plenty of races, but was a fraction off a city-class horse when we took her to Randwick. It’s going to be a huge buzz to have a horse at Randwick again on the big day.
“It’s all been above our expectations but Brett [Thompson, trainer] said she was improving with every run and was confident she could finish in the first three.”
Bathurst Thoroughbred Racing Club chief executive officer Michelle Tarpenning said the day lived up to hype.
“It was a fantastic day and we had a great crowd,” Tarpenning said.
“All the feedback we had from Racing NSW was great and everyone had a good day. The crowd of about 2,000 people was excellent.”
Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys noted the strong growth in wagering turnover – again a sign that Bathurst Thoroughbred Racing got things right.
“Betting turnover is an important performance indicator for the Country Championships series. Wagering with the NSWTAB increased by more than 55 per cent on last year’s Bathurst Cup meeting,” he said.
“Turnover with corporate bookmakers jumped by 60 per cent and with interstate TABs by 58 per cent compared to the equivalent meeting in 2014, which is an extraordinary result.”