Country Championship heat moves to coincide with Charity Shield in Mudgee

RACING IN THE RAIN: The 2018 CDRA country championship qualifier was run in torrential rain, Cosmologist and Eleanor Webster-Hawes hitting the line first. Photo: SIMONE KURTZ
RACING IN THE RAIN: The 2018 CDRA country championship qualifier was run in torrential rain, Cosmologist and Eleanor Webster-Hawes hitting the line first. Photo: SIMONE KURTZ

A change of date for the 2019 Central District Racing Association country championship qualifier will ensure Mudgee, again, enjoys one of the biggest sporting weekends in the region this year.

As was the case in 2018, the $150,000 CDRA country championship heat will act as an enthralling epilogue to the blockbuster Charity Shield, with South Sydney and St George Illawarra going head-to-head in the time-honoured pre-season clash at Glen Willow the day before.

This year, the Charity Shield will be played on March 2 with the championship qualifier on March 3, a week later than the original February 24 date.

Mudgee Race Club secretary Colleen Walker said last year’s Saturday-Sunday double-header proved a hit with the region’s sport lovers, and both her club and the Group 10 rugby league stronghold were hopeful of continuing that burgeoning relationship.

It’s good for the community, good for the club, good for sport.

Mudgee Race Club secretary Colleen Walker on the CDRA country championship heat now lining up with the Charity Shield.

“Racing NSW has initiated this because they believe the race club and the NRL have a good partnership and that it was successful last year, we’re just exciting about fostering that,” she said.

“It’s good for the community, good for the club, good for sport.”

She added the club was looking at ways to make the weekend a big one for all of Mudgee, with the rodeo on Friday night and the show also on in town that weekend.

“We want to encourage people to stay the whole time,” Walker added.

“Who would have thought all this five years ago? It’s wonderful, the exposure for Mudgee. We’re just looking to embrace it as much as we can and make the weekend an enjoyable one.”

Dubbo will host the first of eight, 1400-metre, $150,000 country championship qualifiers on Sunday, February 10, with heats running each weekend until the wild card round at Muswellbrook on March 24.

The $500,000 final will then be staged on Saturday, April 6 at Royal Randwick on the same day as Group 1s the Doncaster Mile and T J Smith Stakes and Australian Derby.

Dean Mirfin’s Cosmologist won last year’s CDRA heat in torrential rain at Mudgee, while Narromine’s Justin Stanley enjoyed his second qualifier victory in three years with Good Host hitting the line first at Dubbo’s western heat.

GOING AGAIN: Good Host (green and yellow), pictured winning the 2018 Country Championships qualifier at Dubbo, is targeting the race again in 2019. Photo: BELINDA SOOLE

GOING AGAIN: Good Host (green and yellow), pictured winning the 2018 Country Championships qualifier at Dubbo, is targeting the race again in 2019. Photo: BELINDA SOOLE

Victorem gave Port Macquarie trainer Jenny Graham the biggest win of her career in the final, saluting at Royal Randwick in 2018.

A full list of Country Championships heats:

FEBRUARY 10: DUBBO (Western)

FEBRUARY 17: PORT MACQUARIE (Mid North Coast)

FEBRUARY 23: ALBURY (Southern Districts)

MARCH 3: MUDGEE (Central Districts)

MARCH 3: GOULBURN (South East)

MARCH 10: TAMWORTH (Hunter & North West)

MARCH 17: GRAFTON (Northern Rivers)

MARCH 24: MUSWELLBROOK (Wild Card)