The countdown has started for the $50,000 NSW Picnic Racing Championship at Coonamble on October 10, following the final qualifier at the recent meeting held at Gunnedah.
Points were allocated for wins and placings throughout the series and were on a sliding scale depending on the value of the race such as Picnic Cups with higher prizemoney than that for restricted class races.
Once again the series was impacted by the pandemic with 18 Picnic meetings held while 16 were abandoned due to COVID-19 restrictions.
A field of 12 will contest the final with the Peter Reynolds, Dubbo-trained Drummed Out being the top qualifier with 30 points.
Drummed Out, apart from placings, won 800 metres and 1000 metres Bracelet Sprint Races at Tottenham and Bedgerabong and in previous years has won over 1400 metres, the distance of the Final.
Michael Johnston, a well known rodeo rider from Wellington, was the winning jockey this year on both Drummed Out and the Peter Reynolds trained Nevada Sunrise which won the Condobolin Picnic Cup and is the fourth-highest qualifier for the final.
Owned by a syndicate of keen racing fans and punters from Lake Cargelligo and Tullibigeal is the Brett Robb, Dubbo trained On A Promise, the second-highest qualifier.
Landing a number of successful betting plunges for supporters, On A Promise won at Gilgandra, Bedgerabong and Coonamble from 1000 metres to 1550 metres and ran placings at Tottenham and Forbes.
Maddison Wright, the current NSW Premiership winner for Picnic jockeys, is likely to ride On A Promise in the Final.
In a noteworthy achievement, Dubbo trainer Connie Greig has Regina Margherita, Call Me Trinity, Malibu Stacy and Equilibrium all qualified for the final field.
Regina Margherita won the 1400 metres Tottenham Picnic Cup and was placed at Bedgerabong, Bligh and Wellington while the now 10 year old Malibu Stacy won the Cups at Bourke and Tullibigeal.
Originally from Brazil and now based in Sydney, Leandro Ribeiro was the regular jockey over the season for the Connie Greig stable.
Trained at Gilgandra by Bryan Dixon, the very well performed Song One has qualified and shapes as a leading contender having won the Bedgerabong Cup when ridden by 17 year old Will Stanley from Bathurst and away from the Picnics was placed at TAB meetings against classy opposition in the Mudgee Cup and Gilgandra Cup.
An indication of the success of the Picnic Championship is that trainers, Doug Gorrel , Rob Potter and Darryl Rolfe, all from Canberra, have on numerous occasions made long trips to race on the circuit.
Trained by Doug Gorrel, Keep Me Posted won the Cups at Tomingley and Cootamundra with Anaelle Gangatena who came to Australia from her birthplace Ecuador being the rider.
Anaelle Gangatena also won on the Rob Potter trained Madison Point at Ardlethan, Cootamundra and Goulburn to secure qualification for that galloper.
Darryl Rolfe is always keen to get multiple premiership winning rider Ricky Blewitt from Narromine on his starters and the Canberra trainer has Boorowa Picnic Cup winner Opera Tickets qualified and is hopeful either Rheingau or Waldo Waldorf can make the Final from just outside the top 12.
Following are the top 20 in the point score after the final meeting before the Final.
30 points - Drummed Out (trainer Peter Reynolds, Dubbo).
27 points - On A Promise (Brett Robb, Dubbo).
23 points - Regina Margherita (Connie Greig, Dubbo).
22 points - Nevada Sunrise (Peter Reynolds, Dubbo), Opera Tickets (Darryl Rolfe, Canberra).
21 points - Call Me Trinity (Connie Greig, Dubbo), Song One (Bryan Dixon, Gilgandra).
20 points - Malibu Stacy (Connie Greig, Dubbo), Sestina (Doug Gorrel, Canberra).
19 points - Equilibrium (Connie Greig, Dubbo); Lucienne (Brett Robb, Dubbo); Madison Point (Rob Potter, Canberra).
Next best outside the top 12 and all on 18 points in alphabetical order are Combogolong, Keep Me Posted, Nepenthes, Rheingau, Sam and Waldo Waldorf followed by Baby Merlin ( 17 ) and Danspur ( 16 ).
With a month to go before the Final, horses just outside the top 12 can still make the field depending on withdrawals.
In the case of horses with equal points the first eliminated by ballot will be the lowest on the pointscore and if still equal the lowest Benchmark miss out.
As the average prize money for a Picnic race is about $4,000 the $50,000 for the Picnic Championship is a tremendous incentive to be in the Final on Coonamble Gold Cup day.
Collarenebri Races on Saturday have been abandoned. Dubbo Gold Cup is on Sunday.