|Date:||Saturday, April 1, 2023|
|Location:||Royal Randwick Racecourse|
The Country Championships is a special conditions race over 1400m held at Royal Randwick Racecourse on Day 1 of The Championships each year.
Held alongside some of the best races in the country, such as the Doncaster Handicap, TJ Smith Stakes, Australian Derby and the Sires Produce Stakes, the Country Championships is always a strong betting race.
First held in 2015, the Country Championships is limited to gallopers trained in country New South Wales. Races in the qualifying series are restricted to horses Class 5 and below that have had 20 or fewer race starts prior to the qualifier in their region.
The first and second horse past the post in each qualifying race books a spot in the Country Championships Final at Royal Randwick.
2023 Country Championships betting odds
Markets for the 2023 Country Championships Final are currently unavailable.
Best Country Championships bookmakers
The bookmakers were keen to get involved straight away with the Country Championships and very few hesitated when it came to installing markets on the event.
Below you can find a list of the online bookmakers you can trust, all of which have comprehensive reviews.
Latest Country Championships News
Country Championships Qualifiers
To contest the Country Championships, horses must legitimately be under the care of a NSW country trainer in NSW – Mid North Coast, South East, Central Districts, Southern Districts, Northern Rivers, Hunter & North West, Western, BHFWRA (Broken Hill & Far West).
Beginning in Grafton on February 12, 2022, the Country Championships Qualifiers are held on a weekly basis throughout the regions up until March 20, 2022, when a Wild Card race will be held at Scone to decide the final two spots in the Country Championships at Randwick.
The wild card race gives horses who failed to qualify in an earlier heat one final opportunity to qualify for the final on Day 1 of The Championships.
2022 Country Championships Qualifiers Results
- Grafton – Northern Rivers (Feb 12) – Qualified: Far Too Easy (1st), Zoukina (2nd)
- Nowra – South East (Feb 13) – Qualified: Testator Silens (1st), To The Nines (2nd)
- Wagga – Southern Districts (Feb 19) – Qualified: Another One (1st), Tap ‘N’ Run (2nd)
- Taree – Mid North Coast (Feb 20) – Qualified: Swamp Nation (1st), Little Prophet (2nd)
- Mudgee – Central Districts (Feb 27) – Qualified: Zoo Station (1st), Tags (2nd)
- Tamworth – Hunter & North West (March 6) – Qualified: Anethole (1st), Commando Hunt (2nd)
- Coonamble – Western (March 13) – Qualified: Great Buy (1st), Amulet Street (2nd)
- Scone – Wildcard (March 20) – Qualified: Cavalier Charles (1st), Edit (2nd)
Country Championships history
Male horses have won every race of the Country Championships since the inception of the race in 2015, except in 2020 when Gracie Belle became the first mare to win the event.
Horses deemed as race favourites have not had the strongest record in the race, with only Noble Boy (2019) and Art Cadeau (2021) saluting as the market elect.
Clearly Innocent, the 2016 champion, is the only subsequent Group 1 winner who has taken out the Country Championships, with the Greg Bennett-trained horse claiming the 2017 Kingsford-Smith Cup.
Despite no trainer claiming multiple wins in the Country Championships, jockey Tommy Berry is the only hoop to have won the race on more than once occasion, with the star hoop guiding Clearly Innocent (2016) and Art Cadeau (2021) to victory.
2022 Country Championships result
Recent Country Championships results
- After finishing 2nd to Art Cadeau in last year’s Final, the four-year-old Super One gelding, Another One, went one better this year under the guidance of top country jockey Nick Heywood. From barrier 8, Another One was forced to the rear of the field as they closed up in front of him after the jump, settling worse than midfield on the rail. Heywood had taken the chance on Another One, staying closer to the rail when the others moved to the middle of the track in the straight and was eating up the heavy ground to appear inside the leaders to hit the front at the 100m, pulling away to win by 0.26-lengths to Commando Hunt ($9) who put in a phenomenal run for Scone trainer Cameron Crocket and Amulet Street ($51) who hung on for 3rd with Far Too Easy in 4th.
- Despite not racing since claiming the Goulburn qualifier eight weeks prior, the Terry Robinson-trained Art Cadeau was too hard to run down in an all-the-way victory. Having been sent around as a $3.30 market elect, Tommy Berry opted to take up the running with all of his rivals looking to take a sit off the speed. Winning jockey Tommy Berry had been an important part of Art Cadeau’s build up, partnering the horse at his past five starts in the lead up to the Country Championships Final. Berry became the first jockey in the race’s brief history to claim multiple victories in the race.
- Up until 2020, male horse had taken out all five previous versions of the Country Championships, however Gracie Belle became the first female horse to claim the event. The grey was sent around as a $21 chance and managed to get her nose down in time to hold out Al Mah Haha in a thrilling finish. In a season that had already brought drought, fire and floods to country NSW, the final at Randwick was held under exceptional conditions with no crowds for the flagship autumn carnival meeting because of coronavirus protocols.
- Trainer Todd Blowes had only had his training licence for 18 months, but by the end of the Country Championships Final of 2019 he had a feature event win at Royal Randwick to his name. Noble Boy, the $3.10 popular elect, came from midfield to beat Lucciola Belle ($26) by 1-3/4 lengths with Bennelong Dancer ($9) a short neck away in third and became the first favourite to take out the event. Randwick’s soft track on race day worked in Noble Boy’s favour with the mud having proven to be right up his alley in the past and it showed, with many of his rivals struggling in the conditions.
- The Jenny Graham-trained Victorem came to the Country Championships on the back of seven-week gap between runs, but it was no issue for the three-year-old gelding. Ben Looker had ridden his luck in a rail-hugging ride, but the move proved beneficial as Victorem showed a nice turn of foot and his win was never in doubt. Race favourite Don’t Give A Damn poised a challenge for a split second, but the winning margin of 2.5 lengths showed the dominance Victorem bolted in with.
- The Cathleen Rhode-trained Free Standing was purchased for just $2,600 by Rhode’s partner Steve Thompson and handed the couple their biggest moment in racing. Having shown nice speed from the barrier, Blake Shinn opted to have him settled on the fence just off the speed. Having edged closer to the leader’s approaching the home turn, Free Standing needed a gap and when the gap appeared he burst through it and was quick to put a couple of lengths on his rivals in what proved to be a winning break.
Country Championships past winners list
|Country Championships Past Winners|
|2022||Another One||Nick Heywood||Gary Colvin|
|2021||Art Cadeau||Tommy Berry||Terry Robinson|
|2020||Gracie Belle||Kerrin McEvoy||Matthew Dunn|
|2019||Noble Boy||Hugh Bowman||Todd Blowes|
|2018||Victorem||Ben Looker||Jenny Graham|
|2017||Free Standing||Blake Shinn||Cathleen Rhode|
|2016||Clearly Innocent||Tommy Berry||Greg Bennett|
|2015||Artlee||Mitchell Bell||Todd Willan|