Spring is in the air – finally – and just in time for the 2018 Showcase Picnic Championship (1400 metres) at the Dubbo Turf Club.
The Series was staged for the first occasion last year where Rodney Robb snared the major prize with Security Code and jockey Maddie Wright.
And with three lining up in the second edition – Austin (NZ), Rusty Motorbike and Lulu’s Destiny – the Nyngan trainer is giving himself every chance to defend his silverware.
But Robb warned he was not “counting my chickens before they hatch”.
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“It’s a pretty open race and when all the horses earn their spot in these races, you think they all deserve equal amount of chance,” he said.
Lulu’s Destiny has been down on her previous form, snagging just two seconds from four starts since a mid-year, 12-week spell.
But the five-year-old Power Of Destiny x Louisiana Lulu mare has six career wins to her name, enjoying purple patches in August 2017 and again at the start of 2018.
“She got in there a fair while ago but her last couple of runs haven’t been the best she could produce and it’s a bit worrying as a trainer that they’re not as good as they were,” Robb said.
But a four-week rest has hopefully done some good for a mare who’s been known to bounce back; she secured three wins in as many weeks after a three week rest back in July 2017.
She’s drawn barrier 15, but will have the bonus of being ridden by Wright, last year’s winning jockey, on Sunday.
Robb has just returned from a stint in Queensland with eight of his horses at Betoota, Birdsville and Bedourie.
Championship contender Austin (NZ) was “ironically” one of the best performers on the dirt tracks, Robb said, and is looking well now they have returned home.
“He went over 1700 at Louth then two weeks later he went over 1600 in the Betoota Cup and he went third,” Robb said.
“A few weeks later he won at Birdsville over 1600m and then he was successful again at Bedourie.”
The “very tough horse” will need to be after a busy few weeks, and drew barrier 16.
“He’s done nearly 1800 kilometres and 19 hours on the truck over two days so he’s a tough horse, but he’ll need every bit of luck on Sunday,” Robb said.
“It’s hard to leave them out of a race like this because it’s a great thing for the stables.
“It’s good for the country areas and it’s good for the stable to have three representatives.”
Rusty Motorbike – who has probably been named wrong – is the best-drawn of Robb’s chances in barrier nine.
“The old rusty motorbike, when they break down you just sit them under a tree and forget about them but him, when we get him in the yard he’s always ready to go,” Robb said of the nine-year-old gelding.
The Encosta De Lago x Sarah Vee progeny has never started at Dubbo, but boasts four career wins over the 1400m distance alone and likes a good track.
“He’s nice and fresh. We couldn’t get him any better really,” Robb said.
“All three of them are going into the race fit and ready to go … they’ve drawn a bit wide but there’ll be plenty of time for them in the straight and down the back straight to get in a good position.
The legendary country trainer acknowledges a good preparation only goes so far.
“It’s all about how they’re ridden and whether the jockeys have any luck in the race,” Robb said.
“Split-second decisions can make you either a genius or a mug, but it will be a great day of racing and I take my hat off to all the picnic club presidents and secretaries that have got right behind this event.
“As a trainer and producing the horses on the day, I really appreciate the opportunity.”