Big Haz – a winner of his past three starts and on a path towards the Country Championships – is looking to continue Albury’s domination of the Southern Districts qualifier.
The four-year-old resumes in the Class 4 (1400m) at Albury on Friday and will then move onto the $150,000 heat at Wagga on March 4.
Albury-trained horses have won the past three editions with Loved Up (2015), Steakandbearnaise (2016) and Lautaro last year.
Firstly, Big Haz will need to perform on Friday to prove he is a worthy contender and hometown trainer Garry Worsnop is confident he will deliver.
“I reckon he can sprint a bit better than he was last campaign,” Worsnop said.
“He is by Nothin’ Leica Dance and he needed time to mature.
“In his first five starts he showed he was going to win a race and then he just kept getting better, winning three-in-a-row.
“Racing is so competitive that it’s hard to win three-in-a-row.
“We gave him a spell and brought him back and I’m happy where he is at.”
Big Haz who bought by Worsnop for $2000 from the Dubbo sales and he races the galloper with his partner, Jackie Hasler.
“Big Haz is named after Jackie’s son who has been in the army for 25 years,” he said.
“They call him Big Haz but he is only about five foot, two inches.
“I also have Nothin’ Like Harry racing for the first time on Friday.
“He is also by Nothin’ Leica Dane and is showing good ability as well.”
Worsnop returned to his hometown of Albury after 16 years working in the mines in the Hunter Valley.
He trained racehorses in the 1980s and was drawn back to it after a lengthy absence.
“This is my hobby in retirement and I’m doing what I love with a few horses,” he said.
Big Haz will be ridden by leading jockey Nick Souquet who won last year’s qualifier on Lautaro for Andrew Dale.
The Albury preview has attracted eight starters with Norm Loy’s Butler Butler and Graham Hulm’s Bennelong Dancer also representing the city.
The top-weight Athonis, trained by Canberra’s Barbara Joseph and Paul Jones, is expected to start favourite and prove hard to beat after seven consecutive top-three finishes this campaign.
A noted leader, Athonis was narrowly beaten last start and has the edge in race fitness.
Wodonga trainer Peter Maher has I’m Peter in the race, which won last start at Albury on January 18.
Wangaratta’s Steve Cunningham has entered Absolutelycertain and Tumut will also be represented with South Africa for Kerry Weir.
Nothin’ Like Harry will contest the maiden handicap (1600m), race three on the card.