Spirited Orange trainer Lee Van Den Bos left Tyers Park with an extra skip in her step on Sunday and she’ll take that same level of exuberance to Mudgee in two weeks.
Van Den Bos’ five-year-old gelding Loves A Hassle showed an impressive second effort in winning the Gold Circle Cup at Bathurst, a 1300 metre class 4 handicap that also doubled as the Central District Racing Association’s championship preview.
The district’s $150,000 championship heat is on Sunday, February 25 at Mudgee and, after the saluting by a length in a class field, Van Den Bos declared Loves A Hassle an almost certain starter for the qualifier in 12 days’ time.
“We are, we’ll have two weeks off then off to the qualifier,” Van Den Bos said.
“We’re quite excited. We were worried. He’d had plenty of bad luck in Sydney, nothing has gone his way in the last few weeks.
“For him, it was win or don’t go. He won, so we’re off to the qualifier now.”
Going on Van Den Bos’ estimates, as many as four other horses from the championship qualifier at Bathurst on Sunday will be in contention for the big one in Mudgee.
Dennis Bush from Forbes will likely throw Molasses’ hat in the ring, while Missy Rhythmos (Alison Smith, Orange), Raise A Drop (Danny Parsons, Cowra) and Turcotte (Cam Crockett, Mudgee) are chances.
As it turned out, all four jumped well alongside Loves A Hassle ($3.80) in Sunday’s prelude, with Parson’s grey flash, Raise A Drop ($13), bolting to an early lead.
The Cowra gelding maintained his advantage for the majority of the race, but went a touch wide into the straight, opening up a window for Van Den Bos’ hope.
It was all the invitation Loves A Hassle needed, sneaking up the barrier before fending off challenges from the field with a remarkable late burst of speed.
Raise A Drop finished second while Turcotte ($5) ran third, edging Molasses by a nose for the minor placing, while $3.30 pre-race favourite Annecy finished sixth.
Smith’s Missy Rhythmos faded to eventually finish ninth.
Van Den Bos was thrilled with the win, Loves A Hassle’s third in 10 starts.
“With the horses in that race, it gives you a guide line. He’s up to that quality,” she said.
She was confident the Mudgee track would suit her five-year-old in the qualifier.
“It’s a front-runners track. He’s got to be up close. Hoping for a good barrier draw, makes all the difference,” she added.
Also out of Van Den Bos’ Towac Park stables, Beau Hoffa is likely to be nominated for the Mudgee championship heat as well.