Port Macquarie trainer Marc Quinn is hoping recent addition Auzstar can lay down a marker for a Country Championships tilt in 2023 when he travels south to Taree on Sunday.
Auzstar will have just his third start for the Quinn yard in the AG Mowers Country Boosted Benchmark 66 Handicap (1250m).
The son of star sire Zoustar has only been in Quinn’s stable for a matter of months after the gelding began his career with John Sargent in Sydney before moving to Chris Waller.
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A switch to the Warren Gavenlock yard saw Auzstar break through for his first win but with the Coffs Harbour trainer winding down his career connections were on the lookout for a new trainer.
It was then Quinn received a call from owner Peter Colley to take over the training duties and the new conditioner believes Auzstar can go on with it on Sunday.
“I had trained a couple of horses with him a few years ago and he rang me and asked if I would take him,” Quinn said.
“He’s always had a few fairly handy horses so I went up to Coffs Harbour to pick him up the next day.
“We started from scratch with him pretty much and just poked along but when you go through his form, he obviously has a bit of ability.
“We trialled he and thought he would be competitive at Port but it was only a 1000m race and I really thought he could be a Country Championships horse.”
Auzstar won his first start for Quinn at Port Macquarie before having a six week freshen up.
He lost no admirers last start when racing without a lot of luck over the 1000m at Taree, finishing less than a length off the winner in third.
“I thought the run at Taree was really good the other day,” Quinn said.
“Shayleigh (Ingelse) just got a bit lost on him and got caught up at a vital stage but when she got clear air he hit the line well.
“He’s pulled through it well. He’s a big horse and doesn’t need much work to stay fit.
“He worked well this week and got a good report from Luke Rolls, who will ride him again on Saturday from a good gate.
“I think he will run well.”
Auzstar was the equal $3.70 favourite with TAB alongside the Neil Godbolt-trained Buck Pharoah with John Sprague‘s Klopp next best at $7.
Sunday‘s run is likely to be Auzstar’s last this calendar year as Quinn prepares to start planning for the Country Championships.
Auzstar is set to be aimed at the Northern Rivers qualifiers on Saturday, February 18.
“We want to get through Sunday first because there is still another six or seven weeks before we get to that.”
“There is a big chance he probably goes back out (for a short break).
“I would dare say we only give him one more run leading into it. He seems to run his best fresh.
“It‘s a fine balancing act for trainers up here as our heat is always early in the series and I want to get him there as softly as we can.”
The first two across the line in the Country Championships heats qualifier for the $500,000 main event on Saturday, April 1 at Randwick.
MITCH COHEN’S TOP SELECTIONS
Race 4 No.2: FULL PRESS
Only needs to replicate his last start win at Murwillumbah to go close again.
Race 6 No.6: AUZSTAR
Racing really well this preparation and ready to peak third-up from a break.
Race 5 No.6: STILLWELL
Can go back-to-back after breaking his maiden last time. Drawn to get gun run.
Race 5: 2
Race 6: 2, 6, 11
Race 7: 1, 3, 4, 6
Race 8: 1, 2, 4, 7, 11
JOCKEY TO FOLLOW
Ben Looker has five rides and all of them should be around the money.
Stay Tonight is one of four first starters in the opener but strikes a maiden on debut that doesn‘t have a heap of depth. Travelled nicely in her only trial over 1000m. Gets a cosy draw with the experience of Andrew Gibbons in the saddle certainly a bonus. After a couple of near misses, Tikitiboo is well placed to run well again. Uncertain Terms finished alongside Stay Tonight his trial but will need to navigate a path from the car park. He’s drawn barrier 19. Super Freds has been racing well but will need to overcome a tricky gate too.
Bet: Stay Tonight to win.
Never Careless got the job done for a new yard after starting life with Peter Robl. He was good winning at Kempsey last time and can double the dose here. Both his wins have come at the 1000m and the firm track is another tick. Three of Salad Dodger‘s seven wins have come at Taree. Second last time at this track and trip, he’s drawn to run well again. This will be easier than what Markwell Dreamer has faced recently. No doubt he’s a classy galloper on his day. Golden Fantasy has got the silver twice first up from a break and can run well.
Bet: Never Careless to win.
A half-brother to Group 1 winner Dear Demi, Tyrol is yet to taste success on track. This looks like his best chance yet. The Aiden St Vincent-trained galloper has been around the money at his past two. Should be ready to peak third-up from a decent gate. Finding Alice might be hard given how wide she‘s drawn. If the mare can find cover, expect her to be running on. Cherokee Cherry has placed at half of her 12 starts. From barrier one, she should get every chance. Wide draw could be the thorn in Dante Alighieri’s side.
Bet: Tyrol to win.
You won‘t get massive odds but Full Press looks one of the better bets on the card. Brett Dodson’s son of Press Statement has been a great money spinner this preparation with three wins and four seconds. Loves the mile and gets in well at the weights with 56.5kg thanks to Jasper Franklin’s claim. Hombre Grande drops back to the mile – a track and trip he ran second at two starts ago. Expect him to be in the finish. Persian Beauty has the grounding to be competitive over the mile. Gets the track and trip he’s won at twice already. It’s been more than a year between drinks for Continuation. His best is good enough.
Bet: Full Press to win.
Stillwell is a lightly-raced three-year-old with his best racing in front of him. The Kobayashi gelding got the maiden out of the way with a win over the 1450m at Kempsey last start. Stepping up to the mile here looks ideal with a good draw. Kris Lees-trained stablemate Akauwheo was a beaten favourite last start but has the ability to atone. A daughter of Ribchester, she should be suited by the mile test. Echoes Of My Mind broke through at her first start for Paul Shailer. Has a tick over trial over since then to keep him up to the mark. Gets gun draw too.
Bet: Quinella 2, 6, 11.
Auzstar is being aimed at the Country Championships in 2023 and this looks like a nice stepping stone trainer Marc Quinn to reach that goal. A winner at his first start for the new yard, he wasn‘t far away when racing without a lot of luck over 1000m at the track last time when third. Step up to 1250m looks ideal from a sensational draw. Mista Razzledazzle looks a danger. Never missed the placings in three first up runs with a pair of trials to have him set for this. Klopp has been the subject of some early market support, shortening from $12 into $7 with TAB. He’s ready to peak third-up. Buck Pharaoh shouldn’t be discounted either.
Bet: Auzstar to win.
Crimson Rock can roll forward from a good gate and settle somewhere close to the speed to give himself every chance. Returns to the country after he was doing his best work late when fifth at Wyong first up from a break. Nothing in this field has been racing more consistently than Pacheco. The Kris Lees-trained galloper has missed the placings once in his past six runs. Just missed last time at Newcastle and ready to run well again. Evocator has been set a task from barrier 14. Won first up last preparation has trialled well in the lead up. Rossy‘s Typa Girl, Killzy and Razzama not without a hope in an open last event.
Bet: Crimson Rock each way.