Strong fields entered for Albany Racing Club’s opening meeting headlined by the Country Championship Heat

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Jason Whiting gets the Rebecca Wallrodt-trained Willow River up to win last season.
Camera IconJason Whiting gets the Rebecca Wallrodt-trained Willow River up to win last season. Credit: Laurie Benson

A long-term plan to get Willow River to metropolitan grade is the reason she will start first-up in the $40,000 Country Championship Heat The Road To Ascot (1230m) at Percy Spencer Racecourse on Sunday.

Albany Racing Club’s first meeting of the season will feature a bumper eight-race card with 93 horses entered, headlined by the regional championship qualifier.

Five-year-old mare Willow River will tackle nine rivals in the feature race with Jordan Turner in the saddle.

Prepared by Albany trainer Rebecca Wallrodt, Willow River is a winner of five starts and has placed on five other occasions in 16 career starts.

The mare finished outside the top four only once in nine starts last season to be second in the Great Southern horse of the year award.

“Our plan last year when she was racing well was always to take the next step and take her to Perth,” Wallrodt said.

“So we will start here and then hopefully we can get up there and do well.

“I am a little bit concerned about the distance, she hasn’t run well above 1100m but she has matured well and her fitness is good.

“We will try and settle midfield and then run home strongly.”

Wallrodt will also have Bergio and Moments Of Magic race on the Albany card.

The opening meeting has two strong maiden races, with leading WA trainer Adam Durrant to saddle up talented three-year-old Snipillicious.

At his only two starts he has finished behind Champion Fillies runner Magical Dream and exciting type Madam Torio.

After winning a Lark Hill trial by 2.9 lengths recently, Snipillicious appears a strong chance to break his maiden status with apprentice Laqdar Ramoly in the saddle.

Island Charm is also entered in maiden company for Albany trainer Roy Rogers after running a narrow second in Bunbury last start and will come up against Michael Lane-trained galloper Egyptian Moon.

Meanwhile veteran sprinters Tranquilla Sunrise and My Greek Boy will lock horns in the open class sprint over 1100m.

Peter Knuckey and Turner will ride in the region for the first time this season and will join the likes of head jockeys Shaun McGruddy, Chloe Azzopardi, Kyra Yuill and Jason Whiting while 13 apprentices will take mounts in Albany.

Leading local trainers Steve Wolfe and Roy Rogers have big teams entered, taking 16 gallopers to the meeting each.

The first race will be run at 1.35pm with the final event at 5.15pm.

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