Vanishing act: the field in the Mudgee Country Championship Qualifier is unrecognizable as it makes its way down the back straight in the torrential rain.
Vanishing act: the field in the Mudgee Country Championship Qualifier is unrecognizable as it makes its way down the back straight in the torrential rain.

Racecaller: ‘I don’t know where the horses are’

IN heavy rain and near-zero visibility, Cosmologist has caused an upset result in the $150,000 Country Championships Qualifier (1400m) at Mudgee, but equally commendable is the performance of the racecaller.

Sky Racing's broadcaster Col Hodges had the unenviable task of calling the race where $51 outsider Cosmologist, under jockey Eleanor Webster-Hawes, took up the early running.

This proved an advantageous position given the conditions as Cosmologist was never headed to score by more than two lengths.

But Hodges's attempt to call the race during the torrential downpour deserved the thumbs up too.

The rain became heavier moments before the start of the Country Championships Qualifier and visibility was so poor during the race it was impossible to make out the runners on Sky Racing's coverage for most of the race.

On several occasions Hodges said he couldn't see the runners and explained to listeners that he may have wait until the field entered the home straight.

Water baby: Cosmologist gets home in an upset result in the $150,000 Country Championships Qualifier at Mudgee.
Water baby: Cosmologist gets home in an upset result in the $150,000 Country Championships Qualifier at Mudgee.

Experienced jockey Grant Buckley, rider of runner-up Noel's Gift, said he had never ridden in worse conditions.

Webster-Hawes also admitted she found it difficult to see clearly but at least her mount Cosmologist didn't have any equine traffic problems as he sailed home in front of Noel's Gift ($51) with more than a length to Ori On Fire ($4.80) third.

Most Exalted, the $4.20 favourite, couldn't get into the contest and ran only seventh.

"The conditions were hard to ride in," Webster-Hawes told Racing NSW. "It was difficult to see, difficult to hear.

"I was hoping Cosmologist would stick it out because he was knackered at the furlong and so was I."

The Dean Mirfin-trained Cosmologist was only third emergency for the Mudgee heat but gained a start on race morning after the scratchings of Great Choice, I'm Imogen and Atalea.

"I told her (Webster-Hawkes) to go straight to the front, keep your colours clean and make them chase you," Miirfin said. "When they emerged from the fog in front it was just incredible.

"He's a lovely horse and I have a big opinion of him. He's the best horse in the stable and today he justified it."

Cosmologist, who improved his record to four wins from just seven starts, and runner-up Noel's Gift have now qualified for a start in the $500,000 Country Championships Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick on Day One of The Championships on April 7.

As the heavy rain continued, Racing NSW stewards had no option but to abandon the running of the last race on the Mudgee program.


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