THE chance to race for big money at Royal Randwick was on the line as the excitement of the Country Championships came to Coffs Harbour for the first time.
Coffs Harbour Racing Club hosted the $150,000 Country Championships Qualifier for the Northern Rivers region, as two horses qualified for the $500,000 Country Championships final to be held at Royal Randwick on Saturday 3 April.
Baileys booked a place at Royal Randwick with the four-year-old gelding winning the Country Championships qualifier.
The win was the third of Baileys career and his biggest so far as he takes his place at Royal Randwick in April.
Baileys is trained by Graham Payne who is based at Coffs Harbour.
At one stage Baileys was coming last heading round the bend into the home straight, a fact which didn’t faze part-owner Ty Forslund.
“It was coming last but that’s where we wanted it to be,” he said.
“It loves the chase home, and we watched it coming round the corner and it ran well to finish.
“It did what we wanted it to, and we couldn’t have done it without our great trainer Graham Payne.
“We’re all just so ecstatic that we’re going to Sydney and a shot at Randwick.”
It was a triumphant return to racing for Kempsey-based jockey Jayden Barrie.
After retiring from riding last year, Barrie made his comeback ride a memorable one taking out Race 7 with 10-year-old gelding Wewonya.
A jockey for three years, Barrie walked away from the sport last year.
“I retired because I went through a phase where I was frustrated with racing and struggled over riding weight and it was too hard,” he said.
But eight months on in Coffs Harbour, and the passion still burnt brightly for the Kempsey apprentice.
“I missed racing and I was a little bit nervous at the start of the race,” he said,
“But once I started I knew what I was doing, and hopefully this win will get the ball rolling.”
Barrie told News Of The Area it was a special moment to win his return race.
“I was ecstatic at the finish line and it’s funny because no one wanted to put me on initially,” he said.
“But my boss put me on Wewonya, and Hilary Dew has helped me a lot along with Raymond and Grady Spokes”
It was the first time the young jockey had ridden Wewonya and made an instant impact.
“It was the oldest horse at the Country Championships, as it’s 10 years old and still showing them up,” he said.
By Aiden BURGESS