NOBLE Boy firmed to outright favouritism for the Country Championships Final (1400m) at Randwick on April 6 after his dominating win in the $50,000 Championships Wild Card (1280m) at Muswellbrook on Sunday.
The Queanbeyan-trained four-year-old, ridden by Hugh Bowman, came from fourth last early to run down the Kurt Goldman trained Safe Landing (Sam Clipperton) in the last 100m and beat that horse by one and a quarter lengths.
That second placing also assured Safe Landing of a berth in the Final.
Noble Boy and La Scopa, the winner of the Grafton heat, had been sharing favouritism for the decider in the past two weeks but Noble Boy firmed to a $3 favourite with La Scopa at $4.50.
The victory takes Noble Boy's record to five wins from his only six starts.
He is raced on lease by trainer Todd Blowes and former team mates from the Queanbeyan Blues rugby league side.
There were wild scenes in the parade yard after the win with several of those owners there to see the triumph.
Noble Boy has been favourite for the Final since betting first opened but after failing in the Goulburn heat had to win or run second in the Wild Card to qualify.
"What a relief, that was heart in the mouth stuff," Blowes said.
"I was a big worried at the 200m when Safe Landing gave a good kick but he toughed it out.
"Safe Landing was fighting back and I was worried my horse wasn't going to catch him."
Blowes said the horse's fourth at Goulburn had left him wondering about what went wrong.
"However, the next day the heat came out of his joints and that sort of gave me the answer so we iced his joints and then concentrated on getting him ready for this," he explained.
"When it rained on Saturday night my confidence started to rise and I hope we can have a rain-affected track for the Final.
"We will be kind to him leading up to it.
"We won't do a lot with him but he will be ready to go."
Bowman said the horse had improved since he won him at Warwick Farm in early February.
"The race at Goulburn was a messy event but going to the barrier today he felt better than he did at Warwick Farm," he added.
"After that Warwick Farm win Todd and I planned to have him at Randwick for the Final."
Bowman had only four horses behind him at the 600m but soon after started to move forward wide out.
In the meantime Safe Landing had cleared out and opened a big break and Noble Boy had a lot of ground to make up.
There was no panic from Bowman.
He gave Noble Boy two reminders and the horse responded to hit the line late but was finishing so quickly he won by one and a half lengths.
Goldman felt Safe Landing had run a great race.
"He carried visors for the first time at Sam's suggestion because he is still doing a few little things wrong in his races," he said.
"He was tending to concentrate on horses around him at the finish rather than on winning.
"I think he will acquit himself well in the final and Sam will ride him."
DEVIATE, a $200,000 yearling buy, is headed for the Wellington Boot in two weeks after coming from second last to win the second division of the tab.com.au Starmaker (1000m).
Her Gulgong-based trainer, Brett Thompson, has been on crutches for seen weeks after being kicked and breaking his left leg and heaped praise on his staff.
"I've only been to the stables twice since it happened and the boys have done a great job," he said.
"We have always had a big opinion of this filly and she should have run second in the Gimcrack instead of fifth.
"She had no luck.
"We tried to qualify her for the Magic Millions but she was $10,000 short in prizemoney."
Thompson turned in another of his brilliant rides, letting Deviate drop out to second last then let her motor down the centre of the track to grab Depth That Varies ($2.70) near the line and win by half a neck.
"Robert can ride her at Wellington if he wants to," the trainer said.
ROGUE Runner is headed for the Birdsville Cup in July following his all the way win for trainer Stephen Farley in the Galloping Group Class Two (1280m).
Owner Wayne Brown bought Rogue Runner from Bert Vieira three weeks earlier and gave the horse to Farley.
"The plan is for the horse to go to Rodney Robb who has taken horses to Birdsville before for me," Brown said.
"When I spoke to Rodney, he suggested I leave the horse in Wyong and give it to Stephen to try and build his benchmark up so he can get into the cup.
"I have been to Birdsville races once before and I will definitely be going this year."
Rogue Runner ($5.50) was previously trained by Brett Partelle and scored two wins and six placings under his care.
The horse, ridden by Grant Buckley, jumped straight to the lead and never looked like being caught in the straight to win by one and quarter lengths from the $101 outsider Blinkin Snazzy.
MILSEAIN, placed in Group One, Two and Three company in New Zealand including a third in the New Zealand Oaks, bounced back to somewhere near her best to easily win the Workwear Class One and Maiden (1750m).
The win also gave Samantha Clenton her first win on her home track since her return to riding after a two-and-a-half-year absence because of injury and then becoming a mother.
Milseasin ($2 favourite) was having her third run back from a spell after three disappointing runs last preparation after coming from New Zealand and being switched to Kris Lees.
"That was impressive and it looks like she is on the way back to what she showed in New Zealand and she appreciated the soft going," stable representative Keyren Forbes said.
"Kris just wanted to get this race out of the way and then make a plan.
"She was disappointing last preparation but she took some time to acclimatise while she also had a few issues."
Clenton sat Milseain outside the leader High Delight to the 600m, went to the lead and once in the straight released the brakes to win by five lengths Avalene ($9), ridden by Jay Ford.
APPRENTICE Louise Day apologised to trainer Angela Davies after Queen Ablaze virtually jumped out of the ground on the line to win the JTS Realty Sprint (1000m).
"I am sorry I put her in that position," Day said.
Queen Ablaze ($4.40) lived up to the opinion that Davies has of the mare when she won narrowly from Lips 'N' Lashes ($6) with the $2.90 favourite Imacrumpet a close third.
Day had a perfect passage along the rails to the turn but then things went pear shaped.
Day continually tried for a run between two horses but the gap kept closing and it was not until late she was able to get clear.
In the meantime, Lips 'N' Lashes had hit the led but Queen Ablaze raised another effort to grab the lead on the line.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.