David Smith's not overly superstitious, but he's hoping the 2020 Central District Racing Association Country Championship qualifier at Mudgee on Sunday is a case of third time's a charm.
The larrikin trainer based out of the mid-west has long held hopes his stable star Bel Diablo would earn a chance to prove his worth in this rich $150,000 championship heat.
As a three-year-old, Bel Diablo ran in the qualifier at Mudgee in 2018 but battled - as did most of the field - in unfavourable, monsoonal rain and ran fifth.
Then last year Smith was forced to scratch the promising gelding in the lead-up to the 1400m race, and then again before the wild card at Muswellbrook, due to a virus which left Smith and his team gutted.
This year, though, Smith says Bel Diablo's preparation has been "faultless".
And what's more, the Mudgee trainer - who enjoyed success at this level with Distinctive Look in 2017 - says the quality of this year's CDRA heat means there's every chance a horse from this region can take out the $500,000 prize at Randwick in April.
"This year, if one of those better credentialed horses can win (in Mudgee), I wouldn't be surprised if our area stands up in the final," Smith predicts.
Bel Diablo is in that class, too, having won a benchmark 74 over 1200m at Canterbury in July last year.
A lot of people plan for the championships for 12 months, but this has been a three-year goal for us. We're hoping class shines through.Bel Diablo trainer David Smith
Smith believes there's half-a-dozen other horses in the field in that same class as well.
"Gayna (Williams) probably has the favourite with El Mo, he's proven at that benchmark 70 mark, and Dean (Mirfin) is another ... there's five or six top class horses in the race. Anyone could pop up and win," he said.
Smith's brown gelding has had three trials in the lead-up to Sunday's championship qualifier, which wasn't part of the plan.
He said the goal was to run Bel Diablo in Mudgee second-up, where the impressive gelding has an imposing record or three wins and a third from four starts - although Smith says that placing could have easily been a win as well.
"He should be undefeated second-up," Smith said.
"He's never had three trials before but he's also never been one to trial real flash either. Fitness-wise he'll be right for 1400 first-up.
"It's third time's a charm for us, we're hoping. A lot of people plan for the championships for 12 months, but this has been a three-year goal for us.
"We're hoping class shines through."
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Smith has also nominated The Scotsman and Captain Jimmy for Sunday's championship heat at Mudgee.
No trainers from Towac Park were part of the 23 nominations taken for the $150,000 race.
Last year's CDRA champion trainer Cameron Crockett is absent from this year's field after he moved his stable from Mudgee to Scone last year.
The Crockett-trainer Soul Secrets led a huge contingent home for the trainer in 2019, being one of five Crockett horses in the top six.
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