Big Guns Open Inaugural Country Classic Series

THE inaugural Country Classic produced two of its "big guns" in the opening rounds of heats on Monday night in Chase Me Honey and Bandit Ned.

David Brasch

1 March 2022

THE inaugural Stockman & Paddock Country Classic produced two of its “big guns” in the opening rounds of heats at Bathurst and Nowra on Monday when Chase Me Honey and Bandit Ned scored impressive middle distance victories.

The world’s richest middle distance series, with a grand final prize of $125,000 to the winner at Dubbo on March 19, opened with Chase Me Honey scoring at Bathurst as a $1.22 favourite in 36.15, and Bandit Ned winning at $1.33 at Nowra in 36.43.

Mick Hardman was impressed with Chase Me Honey’s victory over Hester and Zipping Demand.

“I was a bit concerned going into the race because Bathurst is a hard 600 metre run,” he said. “I just wanted her to qualify.

“But, she went super. Normally I would expect her to get pretty tired in the last bit at Bathurst over 618 metres, but she didn’t.”

Hardman, despite Dubbo being a 14-hour round trip from his Parkesbourne kennels, said he is happiest the series semis and final will be staged at Dubbo.

“It is not a tough 600 metres and she has been to the track a few times in the past,” he said.

“If the finals were at Richmond, a very hard 600 metre run, I would not have put her in the series.”

He will not be tempted to run her again before the semi-finals.

Long-term targets for the bitch are the Golden Easter Egg and Million Dollar Chase.

“I’m getting sick of running seconds and third in big races with her,” he said. “We want to win them.”

Hardman believes Bandit Ned, from the Jodie Lord kennel, will prove hard to toss in the series.

“He’s perfect for this race,” said Mick.

Bandit Ned downed Smart Fernando and Lady Stomp at Nowra, a track where he is a Group winner and track record holder.

Bandit Ned had chased home Chase Me Honey at Wentworth Park back on February 12 when the bitch led throughout to win in 29.79.

Chase Me Honey has won 15 of 41 starts and $92,000, Bandit Ned has earned $200,000 from 18 wins in 26 starts.

The Country Classic heats continue at Gosford tonight, Dapto Thursday, Dubbo Friday, The Gardens and Grafton on Saturday, and Temora on Sunday.

The first four from each heat will qualify for the semis at Dubbo on March 12, with the first two from each to the rich final on March 19 over 605m.