Trainer Rod Northam, jockeys Aaron Bullock and Robert Thompson the ones to follow at Scone Race Club meeting

IN-FORM: Top jockey Aaron Bullock. Pic: KATRINA PARTRIDGE PHOTOGRAPHY
IN-FORM: Top jockey Aaron Bullock. Pic: KATRINA PARTRIDGE PHOTOGRAPHY

AN emerging group of talented three-year-olds, and a boots-and-all benchmark battle between the strongest racing stables across the greater Hunter, highlight one of the best non-feature mid-week country race meetings seen anywhere across the country at Scone this week.

And, you'll go a long way to see a deeper Class 1 field in the penultimate sprint race over 1100m on Wednesday, November 13, with local trainers not just battling for home track bragging rights, but also out to turn back a raid from surrounding district stables.

The tightest and most competitive battle, though, is likely to come in a BM 66 Hcp over the flying 900m.

Progressive three-year-old filly Deviate looks very hard to toss fourth-up for Gulgong trainer Brett Thompson.

Since resuming with a big closing run in a Class 3 Highway at Randwick, Deviate has been close-up in her last couple at Class 2 level, and with the advantage of the inside draw where she can push up and park right behind the speed, the long home stretch at Scone should be tailor made.

But, over this scamper, there'll be no room for slip-ups in a smart field that includes consistent Wyong sprinterPerfect Style who wasn't far behind the smart Peak two runs back at Newcastle, lightly-raced Tamworth geldingWhosyourhousemate, and Wyong four-year-old Nitride who are both resuming for smart fresh stables; while local-trained gelding Magic Town is well into his prep, and comes back from a lovely closing run at huge odds in a recent Highway at Rosehill.

Earlier popular local trainer Rod Northam will be out to go one better with his promising filly Mother's Day at only her second start in a 3YO Maiden Plate over 1100m.

The daughter of former Golden Slipper Stratum was heavily-backed on home track debut, but couldn't drag in the winner.

However, with that experience and reportedly some strong work in training, she looks ready to pounce today.

But leading the party spoilers will be rival Scone filly and first starterKnow Where To Look, a smart trial winner back in autumn and daughter of two-time Cox Plate champion So You Think.

Meanwhile, that Class 1 battle looms as a three horse showdown, and the winner may well ignite a path to a city campaign.

Talented three-year-old Scone gelding Spiltis having only his second run this prep, and fourth overall, and will show big second-up improvement after a modest return behind the smart Upper East Side who has since won again in dominant fashion.

Like he did in his first prep as a two-year-old, Spilt came on lengths after an average debut charging home to just miss at Dubbo before a brilliant win in the feature Inglis Challenge on Scone Cup Day running down highly-rated Longbottom.

But, plenty of eyes will be on rival four-year-old Ausfighter from the Cameron Crockett yard who resumes off an impressive near eight length trial win at Muswellbrook, while Newcastle three-year-old Mahogany Bay also looks a real chance at his third run back.

Race 1: THE HUNTER @NJC CLASS 1 & MAIDEN PLATE at Set Weights where apprentices can claim over 2200m:

The older stayers kick us off, and a few of them are struggling to take the next step. Not so one of the more lightly raced, local 4YO gelding 4. St Anton (Rachel Murray) who sailed away from the front to win a weak Class 1 at Gunnedah at his fifth start. This is a little stronger, but he's still rising, although hind bandages on for the first time must be a little query.

Dangers: Newcastle 5YO mare 8. Oakfield Chaparral has had two fair runs back from a long spell, but gets to more suitable trip now, and with the blinkers on she can give a big sight from the inside draw.

Race 2: COOLMORE F & M CLASS 1 HCP with a 54kg weight minimum and apprentices can claim over 1100m:

Competitive and tricky sprint, with a few chances. Improving 4YO Wyong mare 2. Fearless Mila (Aaron Bullock) has good ability and resumes off a nice open class trial where she had to lead the field up chasing the tearaway winner, but still found the line nicely under her own steam. Has the quality, despite being lumped with 61kg.

Dangers: Rival 4YO Wyong mare 1. Snicki Minaj looks the logical threat third-up after finishing okay in a Class 1 at Pt Macquarie, and style suggests she will love the long stretch here. Local 4YO mare 3. Aubrey Skies was unwanted in betting first-up for six months at Port Macquarie, and ran accordingly, but she's a much better second-up performer and gets in light after rider's 3kg claim. Gosford 5YO mare 4. Hasty Heart has found the line nicely in two runs this prep, and draws to get a cosy position on the fence back in the field.

Race 3: HORSEPOWER 3YO MAIDEN HCP on a 55kg minimum weight for 3YO's only where apprentices can claim over 1100m:

Another good sprint, with a string of good stables out to make a mark with youngsters just getting started. Local filly 4. Mother's Day (Robert Thompson), by a former Golden Slipper winner, was well backed when just missing on debut, but she was a bit raw that day and should naturally improve, although has to carry 3.5kg more.

Dangers: Will be fascinated to see how rival and well-bred home track filly 6. Know Where To Look (So You Think x Hard To Find by Elusive Quality) goes on debut. No recent public trial, but looked sharp winning one back in March, draws well and form senior rider is a plus. Wyong gelding 1. Two Up has made a fair start to his career, and draws a soft barrier, but will need to find a length or two to take care of these. Similarly, Newcastle filly 3. Are Zhu Ready will also need to improve at third start after being run down leading on the heavy at Tamworth.

Race 4: ARROWFIELD C, G & E BM 58 HCP - HEAT OF THE RISING STAR on a 54kg minimum weight for colts, geldings and entires, and apprentices can claim over 1300m:

Thinner contest will likely augur well for emerging 3YO local gelding 3. Sir Clooney (Tom Sherry, app3kg) who bolted in on from the front on debut at Gunnedah before easily over-run in a deeper affair at Newcastle. Draws to control the tempo again without a lot of pressure, with blinkers being replaced by winkers, and rider's 3kg claim gets him in very well at the weights.

Dangers: Honest 8YO Tamworth gelding 1. St Luke can make it two wins from his last three third-up. Finished over the top to score at big odds two runs back before failing to hit the line last start, but also in well at the weights after rookie rider's 4kg claim, and this isn't strong; while 5YO Cessnock gelding 4. All Day struggles to win, but is fit now after three runs back and draws to get an economical run.

Race 5: RIBCHESTER @DARLEY BM 66 HCP on a 54kg weight limit weight apprentice can claim over 900m:

No holding back here over the scamper distance. Gulgong 3YO filly 5. Deviate (Aaron Bullock) hasn't won for a while, but this looks right up her ally from the inside gate. Hasn't been far away in three runs back, and draws to park right behind a good speed and burst through late. Was beaten under two lengths in the Wellington boot as a 2YO back in the autumn.

Dangers: Progressive 5YO Wyong gelding 2. Perfect Style can strike third-up, with a nice draw and 3kg allowance. Has been even through the line in two runs this prep over the same trip, but this looks a drop in quality. Another 5YO gelding trained on the track, 7. Magic Town is hard fit and drawn to be in the finish. Comes back from running a beauty at huge odds in the Highway at Rosehill, and while would prefer it a little longer, he's the big closer late. Tamworth 6YO gelding 3. Whosyourhousemate resumes off a handy trial, and does have a solid fresh record; while watch the market on resuming 4YO Wyong gelding 4. Nitride who hasn't publicly trialled, but normally comes to hand quickly, and stable is very good at placing them fresh.

Race 6: XMAS PARTY R/DAY DEC 13 MAIDEN PLATE at Set Weights where apprentice can claim over 1600m:

Open and good quality maiden over the mile at set weights. Improving 4YO Newcastle mare 8. Autumn Rain (Aaron Bullock) can break through third-up creeping up in distance. Beautifully bred to get over much further ground, and will relish getting to the outside on a big spacious track.

Dangers: Local 4YO gelding 1. Hardyo looks close to breaking through at third career run. Kept finding the line at Newcastle last start, and will appreciate his first start on home track with a 3kg claim and the blinkers going on. Somersby-trained 5YO mare 11. Onemorerforluck has finished hard and just missed in her last couple at Newcastle and Cessnock, and another suited on this track from a handy trailing draw. Must include improving 3YO Newcastle filly 13. Delector who was well backed getting home okay late this track at only her second start, and draws to get a softer midfield run up in distance. Stablemate 3YO gelding 6. Ego Dancer was solid enough through the line in a handy maiden on debut this track, and will improve over the longer journey; while expect sharp improvement too at second start from 5YO Wyong gelding 2. Oakfield Dazzler who wilted badly on debut in that same race behind Trackman, but the blinkers have quickly been applied.

Race 7: EXTREME CHOICE @NEWGATE C, G & E CLASS 1 HCP with 54kg minimum weight for colts, geldings and entires; and apprentices can claim over 1100m:

Another very competitive sprint battle, with plenty of hopes. Local 3YO 1. Split (Robert Thompson) is a gelding to watch who resumed with only a moderate effort on a firm track at Muswellbrook, but the winner that day Upper East Side is a promising 3YO who has since won again, and he's a much better second-up performer. Won the 2YO Inglis Challenge on Scone Cup day in the autumn finishing over the top of high class Longbottom.

Dangers: Plenty of them, headed by nicely bred home track 4YO gelding 2. Ausfighter who resumes off two trials, bolting in the most recent by nearly eight lengths, and wears a lugging bit for the first time. Wyong 4YO gelding 4. Hard Reality also returns off two nice trials, and draws to get a sweet run with cover. Gosford 5YO gelding 3. In The Zone easily took care of a handy maiden field two runs back before finding the opposition a bit tough at Wyong, but looks better suited here drawn the inside with the blinkers on; while 3YO Newcastle gelding 6. Mahogany Bay is another suited on this track, and will be finishing strong again after zooming home to win his maiden two runs back at Muswellbrook.

Race 8 RACING HQ ON SKY F & M BM 58 HCP with 54kg minimum weight for fillies and mares, and apprentices can claim over 1300m:

Tough one to finish. Local 4YO mare 3. Mo's Glory (Daniel Northey) has drawn wide third-up but that might be okay late in the day. Finished nicely resuming at Dubbo before kept chasing behind the smart Burning Crown who ran a record at Coonabarabran. Up sharply in weight, but more time to settle over her pet distance.

Dangers: Excited to see 4YO local mare and first starter 5. Lady Llewellyn (The Factor x Vetorisc by Vettori) start her career. Bred for speed, draws well and has been taken along quietly at the trials; while stablemate and 4YO mare 10. Santa Margherita showed good improvement at her second run in a handy maiden, and despite being drawn off the track, can improve further with the blinkers going on. Rival local 5YO mare 1. Philadora was well beaten in that same sprint behind Burning Crown, but looks better placed back at home, with a 3kg allowance off-setting big weight.

Last meeting: Oct 25, 2019, Good 4 and rail true: Winners came from barriers: 3, 3, 8, 4, 10, 2, 4, 11

Leading riders: Jean Van Overmeire and Darryl McLellan with two each

Leading trainer: Anthony Cummings with two

My selection board:

Race 1: 4. St Anton** ($2.15 - $2.25) to win

Race 2: 2. Fearless Mila** ($4.50 - $4.65) to win and trifecta 1,2/1,2,3,4/1,2,3,4

Race 3: 4. Mother's Day** ($2.75 - $3.00) to win and save quinella on 4 & 6

Race 4: 3. Sir Clooney** ($2.20 - $2.25) to win and save quinella on 1 & 3

Race 5: 5. Deviate* ($3.00 - $3.15) to win and box trifecta 2,4,5,7

Race 6: 8. Autumn Rain** ($3.65 - $3.85) to win and trifecta 1,8,13/1,8,13/1,6,8,11,13

Race 7: 1. Spilt* ($6.00 - $6.50) each-way

Race 8: 3. Mo's Glory** ($4.50 - $4.75) to win

Riders to follow: Aaron Bullock**, Robert Thompson*

Trainer to follow: Rod Northam*