GOULBURN race-goers and guests turned out in fine form on a sunny* Saturday morning to inaugurate the Country Championships regional racing tour for 2016.
Five-year-old gelding Lofty's Menu, trained by the John Bateman stable in Goulburn, did not disappoint in the all-important Championships' finals qualifier, Race 7, romping home.
The Country Championships, having begun in Goulburn on February 20, will tour regional and provincial NSW to culminate in the finals at Royal Randwick on April 2.
The tour takes on Scone today (February 21), then Wagga (February 27), Taree (February 28), Grafton (March 6), Wellington (March 13), Dubbo (March 20), Muswellbrook (March 27)..
The Goulburn Post spent a day at the races as a guest of Racing NSW, watching eight fixtures including the Royal Randwick qualifier, Race 7, to see which horses would be sent to Sydney.
The $100,000 race drew a strong field of contenders from around the region, with TAB broadcasters confident that the Race 7 winner would have the legs to go on to win in the final, form willing.
There will be 16 horses running in the Country Championships Final at Royal Randwick on April 2, comprising the first two home in each region and at the wildcard in Muswellbrook on March 27.
Goulburn trainer John Bateman was delighted to see Lofty's Menu come home, while Canberra trainers Barbara Joseph and Paul Jones were just as happy to take second with Bank On Henry.
Both horses will run in the April final at Royal Randwick and, should either win, TAB will donate $5000 to Riding for the Disabled here in Goulburn.
* The weather was a late scratching for Race 4 with a surprise downpour forcing a late start, but returned for Race 5 and the remainder of the day's entertainment including Fashions on the Field.
See a selection of the day's trackside action in our photo gallery.
Photos: David Dawson.