BATHURST horses have been regularly making trips to metropolitan meetings but seeing them take part in a Group level event is unheard of.
Press Box could change all that this Saturday.
The Dean Mirfin-trained mare is set to start in the Group 3 Southern Cross Stakes (1,200 metres) as part of her preparation for her upcoming Country Championships heat.
This level of racing is new territory for the former Kosciuszko runner, who has several Group 1-calibre competitors alongside her in a small but elite eight horse field.
Winning isn't priority number one for Mirfin and connections this weekend.
Instead, it's all about keeping the mighty mare's fitness up ahead of the Central District Country Championships qualifier on March 1 at Mudgee.
Competition in this Saturday's race is fierce, with the likes of Group 1 Cantala Stakes placegetter Cascadian and recent WJ Adams Stakes champion Jungle Edge in the mix.
"It's a race that looks too tough, really, but she's got to have a run to finalise her preparation so that she can go into the Country Championships ready to go," Mirfin said.
"She's ready to race really well but it's a really strong race so we're just going there to get a good fitness run in her and see how she goes. It's not our grand final. That's the one she's been set for the whole time, the Country Championships.
"If she wins another race she'll get a 1.5kg penalty so I thought to myself I'll run her in strong races along the way so that if she does win one then I'll make sure it's worth a lot of money so I won't be upset about that penalty."
Any further rain in the lead up to the race is certain to favour Jungle Edge who carries a near 50 per cent strike rate from 18 starts on heavy tracks. Press Box is unplaced from her two starts in the same conditions.
Mirfin's mare opened as a $101 shot for the race.
Press Box already has value as a broodmare courtesy of her strong family record, though a significant result at Group level would do wonders for that price.
The Hinchinbrook x Kaaptive Empress is a full sister to 2015 Group 1 Caulfield Guineas champion Press Statement and shares the same dam as 2010 Group 1 JJ Atkins winner Pressday.
"She's quite valuable already as a sister to two Group 1 winners. One of them, Press Statement, is a champion stallion at stud. Any sort of black type beside her name will only enhance that value
"She's probably one of the most valuable horses to race in our area."
Press Box is also the fourth emergency for the lower graded Schweppes Handicap (1,300m) at the same meeting, but at this stage would need three more scratchings to be eligible.