NSW Country Championships heat favourite Challenge Accepted no certainty to take place in field

COROWA trainer Geoff Duryea will decide on Saturday morning whether to withdraw pre-race favourite Challenge Accepted from the Southern Districts Country Championships qualifier.

X-FACTOR: Nic Souquet will ride top-weight
Lautaro in the NSW Country Championships
heat on Sunday. Picture: MARK JESSER

X-FACTOR: Nic Souquet will ride top-weight Lautaro in the NSW Country Championships heat on Sunday. Picture: MARK JESSER

Duryea said his preference was to scratch the four-year-old who was the beaten favourite in last year's heat.

Challenge Accepted, the $4 early favourite, has drawn barrier 14 in the 16-horse field with another leading contender, Man Of Peace, alongside him in barrier 15, but confirmed a starter in the 1400m feature at Albury on Sunday.

The scratching of Challenge Accepted would be another pre-race bombshell following the decision by Racing NSW stewards to allow Man Of Peace and Levee Bank to run after initially ruling them out.

"I'm still to speak to all the owners, but my call will be to scratch him," Duryea said.

"I'm devastated with the barrier draw.

"We've spent so much time, money and effort and then we draw the car park.

"If we get caught four and five wide, I've got everything to lose and nothing to gain."

Duryea said the Albury $150,000 heat had been on the stable's radar for months with the first two place-getters earning a start in the $400,000 final at Randwick.

Challenge Accepted finished third in his first-up run this preparation on Wangaratta Cup day.

Luke Currie is booked to ride the gelding who ran second in the Albury Guineas last year over 1400m.

"There are a stack of races in Melbourne he can run in," he said.

"But this race was one we really wanted to have a crack at."

The heat will have plenty of early speed with Man Of Peace and Levee Bank expected to take up prominent positions.

Form analyst Chris Scholtz said Challenge Accepted still had the ability to be a major factor in the race despite his wide draw.

"You only get one shot at a race like this when there is $150,000 in prizemoney up for grabs," he said.

"It's a golden opportunity and this horse has got all the right credentials to win if it pans out right for him.

"It's in these sort of situations where you've just got to roll the dice and take it on regardless of the barrier."