TRAINER Craig Widdison admits he was pleasantly surprised when the final field for the Jack Maher Classic was declared on Thursday.
Despite receiving 39 nominations for the juvenile feature, there was only nine final acceptors after several metropolitan trainers opted not to make the trek to the Border.
Widdison will have a two-pronged attack on the $28,000 feature with Halo Warrior and Dissedge.
Halo Warrior will be among four debutantes.
While stablemate Dissedge has had the benefit of one start when unplaced at Wagga in February.
Widdison said he was surprised by the lack of metropolitan raiders.
"I thought there might be a few more Melbourne trainers amongst the final field," Widdison said.
"But they seemed to have dropped off for the past couple of years now for one reason or another."
Widdison admitted the lack of city trainers presented him with a golden opportunity to add his name to the honour roll.
"Halo Warrior has done everything right so far, although he is still learning," he said.
"Every time we ask him do something he improves.
"He has had a couple of jump outs at Wangaratta and improved each time.
"I definitely don't think he is hopeless but you can never be sure how they are going to handle their first race.
"He will be a nice horse going forward but whether he is switched on enough to win is the unknown."
Widdison said not much went right when stablemate Dissedge made her debut.
"She jumped well that day but she got posted from a wide barrier after all the horses inside her kicked-up," he said.
"She was trapped four and five deep for the whole trip.
"To her credit she was still there with them 100m out but just knocked up late.
"So we gave her a break and she has come back in good order."
Widdison will saddle-up several other runners at the meeting.
He pinpointed Tyson Returns as his best hope on the seven-race card.