'Doomben is the level we aim for': Baker runs in Country Cup
GETTING a run in the Country Cups Challenge final is the hallmark of success for bush-based trainers.
And on Saturday, Charleville's own connections had their second crack at the coveted cup.
Again, local trainer Les Baker took seven-year-old Eschiele to the city for the race at Doomben, and was hopeful for a winning run.
But at the end of the day was still happy to come away with seventh place in a tough field.
The challenging race has set a whole new standard for bush trainers across Queensland since its inception in 2018, and now anyone worth their salt in country racing is aiming for the titles on the metro tracks.
"This was our second time and it was a great experience for us," Baker said.
"(Doomben) is very different from racing at Charleville, but Doomben is the level of racing that we, as trainers in the bush, aim for now.
"We try and buy a horse that is good enough to qualify for these finals, then make the trip down there to race at Doomben on the good tracks."
On a fifteen-horse field, it was always going to be difficult to land a top spot, and ultimately the race was won by Deadly Choices, trained by Mt Isa's Damien Finter.
"We were lucky enough to be stabled with the boys that own the winning horse from Mt Isa," Baker said.
"They are good fellas and it was great talking to him, and to see someone we know win that race.
"We got to catch up with a lot of the other trainers too, and have a pretty successful day out."
The Country Cups Challenge is one of two landmark finals which put bush trainers from across Queensland in the spotlight.
Its counterpart, the TAB Battle of the Bush, is held mid-year, and also offers huge prize payouts for country trainers, Finter's Deadly Choices happened to take out second in the Battle race this year.
"(These races are) a good opportunity for the trainers in the bush who maybe don't have the horses good enough to race in the metropolitan area," Baker said.
"They are able to qualify in a Country Cups final, and take a horse there to have a crack at the big money, like $61,000 to the winner.
"It is a big effort to get them there, to be eligible to race there, and to try and win that sort of prizemoney."