Port Macquarie’s John Sprague has not had a runner in either of the Mid North Coast Country Championships heats but next year he plans to enter new territory and have two runners in the rich series.
Both of those horses, Drummed Out and Bold Beginning, will take the next vital step towards that goal at Port Macquarie on Thursday.
Drummed Out, a horse that has Sprague shaking his head in surprise, will resume in the Carlton Mid Benchmark 70 (1010m) and will be ridden by Raymond Spokes.
Bold Beginning (Ben Looker) will have her second run back from a spell in the McGuigan BMW Class Two (1512m).
The $150,000 Mid North Coast heat of the Country Championships, over 1400 metres, will be run at Taree on February 26 with the winner and second place getter qualifying for the $400,000 final at Randwick on April 1.
“I didn’t have a horse good enough for the first two years and now I have two for next year,” Sprague said.
“If everything goes to plan and we can get to the heat imagine how exciting it will be for the owners.”
The distance of Thursday’s Benchmark 70 is well short of Drummed Out’s best but Sprague, who is running a little behind time with the horse’s Championship preparation, has no alternative.
“He has never been a big horse, in fact quite small and when we sent him for a spell after the Grafton Guineas he only weighed 370kgs,” Sprague said.
“I sent him down to Ian Smith’s place at Taree hoping that with a good break he would grow.
“Brett Adkins, the syndicate manager and I went down to have a look at him with the intention of bringing him home but after seeing him we decided to leave him there for another month.
“He hadn’t developed at all.
“A month later we went back and could hardly believe our eyes.
“He wasn’t any taller but he had thickened out and grown across the hind quarters and when I got him home and weighed him I thought I was seeing things.
“He weighed in at 499kgs.
“The extra month was when we were coming out of winter and into the spring and he obviously thrived but the delay in getting him home has put us a little behind.”
Drummed Out is an ex-Godolphin horse which went to Sprague as a maiden and in 11 starts for him has won twice.
While Sprague would be happy to see Drummed Out running on he is expecting Bold Beginning, previously trained by Chris Waler, to run a big race.
“She steps up to 1512 metres and that is much more suitable,” Sprague said.
“She is a big, long barrelled mare and in time I would expect she will get further.”
The mare, who won her maiden at Warwick Farm in December last year for Waller, was having her first start for Sprague and her first from a spell when a close up fourth over 1200 metres at Port Macquarie on November 10.
“She needed that spell and has thrived since coming back into work,” Sprague said.