Country Championships 2017: Stoneyrise wins $150,000 Western Qualifier

Nick Guthrie, Daily Liberal

A cattle farmer and small-time trainer from a town close to the Queensland border racing at a TAB meeting for just the third time.

A horse small in stature which had never raced over 1400m before.

And an apprentice jockey who had feared for his career last year when suffering a severe spinal injury.

It sounds like the stuff of an underdog sports movie but James Hatch, Stoneyrise and Jake Pracey-Holmes combined at Dubbo Turf Club on Sunday to take out the $150,000 Western Racing Association Country Championships Qualifier (1400m).

Hatch has only ever been to a race meeting in Sydney as a spectator but on April 1 he will now be saddling up Stoneyrise in the $400,000 Country Championships Final at Royal Randwick.

 “This is over the top. I could never imagine this happening,” Hatch said, having made the trip in from Hungerford, north west of Bourke.

“Out there and the distance we have to travel and the little horse first up over 1400m. It’s unbelievable.”

Hatch bought Stoneyrise for $7,500 at a Peter Milling Sale and Sunday marked the five-year-old’s seventh win in 15 starts.

First up from a spell, he sat deep early on, much as he always does, after jumping wide out from barrier 17.

Raging favourite La La Loopsy ($2) sat fourth early on as Garry Lunn’s Strathaird ($41) led Mark Jones’ pair Eagles Dare ($15) and Nordic Noir ($17).

Coming into the straight Stoneyrise ($10) was barely in the picture as La La Loopsy moved through the middle and seemed destined to reward the huge amount of punters who jumped on the five-year-old mare.

But down the outside Stoneyrise came flashing home, stealing the win by a length from La La Loopsy while Not For Export ($41) produced a fine run for third.

“It (barrier draw) didn’t worry because he goes back and gets back all the time,” Hatch said. “Jake had the idea and his plan worked good.”

For Pracey-Holmes the win was the biggest in his career and he was left thanking the heavens afterwards.

“He probably wanted to be a bit more forward but we jumped out and he jumped a bit ordinary so I just stayed back and hoped for a run and God shined down and gave us a run and it was great,” he said after the win.

“It’s really good. That’s the biggest race of my career that I’ve won and as they said, it’s a great story. He is only a little horse but by geez he has some ticker. I’ve only had the two rides for two wins and gee he tries hard.”

Hatch will now make the long trek home and said it will probably take his gelding three weeks to recover, meaning another run between now and the rich final is unlikely.

He added it had been a “big run” as the progeny of Zariz and Moss Lover had never raced over 1400m before Sunday’s feature event.

His win in a Class 1 at Louth caught the eye and then he emerged as a Country Championships when winning at Coonamble last October.

Since then he has had a spell, with Hatch often using his horses to round up cattle way out west on his property.

But the trainer showed he had done everything right as Stoneyrise scored one of the more remarkable wins ever seen at Dubbo Turf Club.