Back to back Country Championships would be the ultimate swan song for veteran trainer Greg Bennett.
The day after the $400,000 race is run, he is shutting down his Scone stables to take up a role at Queensland-based breeding facility, Aquis Farm, and he’s keen to go out with a bang.
Bennett has three strong changes for the Hunter and North West Country Championships qualifier at Scone on Sunday – a race he won last year with Clearly Innocent who then went on to claim victory in the final.
Leading the charge is All Summer Long who is back for a second tilt at the title.
The Snippetson gelding qualified for the final after finishing second behind Clearly Innocent last year, but was scratched.
“We decided straight away we’d like to target this race again so he has been held back on purpose,” Bennett said.
“We gave him a good long spell after his last preparation and I am very happy with where he is at now.”
He ran a strong race for second in the Country Championships Prelude at Scone on February 17.
He lumped 62kgs in that race and won’t know himself when he drops down to 56kgs as a class three horse in a set weights race.
“He gets in good at the weights and with a trial and two races under his belt, he is cherry ripe,” Bennett said.
“All we need now is a soft surface and a barrier inside eight to give him the best chance.”
Invienna is also back for round two after finishing fourth in the Scone qualifier and fifth in the wildcard.
“She was really unlucky not to get into the final last year,” Bennett said.
“Obviously she had Clearly Innocent and All Summer Long to contend with at Scone and was caught wide at Muswellbrook.”
Invienna was only a length behind the winner in the Country Championships Prelude while carrying 61kgs. In the start before that she recorded an impressive win in a Class 3 1100m race at Scone while carrying 62kgs.
She too will appreciate a turnaround in the weights, dropping to 57.5kg in the Country Championships.
“She’s race fit and is deserving of a spot in the final,” Bennett said.
“She needs a good surface and will try and settle midfield but that plan might have to change when the barrier draw comes out.”
Sassaby rounds out the Bennett trio and while his last run yielded a disappointing result, he says it should be forgotten.
“He’s stripped fitter for the run and I’m happy with him.
“It’ll be a good strong race though. There are more than a few smart horses in the mix,” Bennett said.