Rod Craig counts on Kembla Grange

HORSE RACING

Perhaps the only man beaming more than Chris Waller after Champagne Cath's demolition of a juvenile bunch at Rosehill last Saturday was Rod Craig.

The likeable horseman, of Intergaze fame, will return to a happy hunting ground for Kembla Grange's first two-year-old race of the season.

His Magic Albert filly Count On It was a close-up third behind Champagne Cath in a Warwick Farm barrier trial last month, fuelling confidence his flag-bearing juvenile can make a winning debut on Saturday.

"I've had her up a fair while with a few niggly little things, no major things, as two-year-olds have but she's come good.

"I love Kembla and it's been great to me over the years. I had my first winner there in 1976 which was an important part of my life."

Just as important has been the contribution of stable stalwart Ross Cribb, the former TAB chairman and long-time breeder.

Cribb, described by Craig as a "wonderful client", has endured a rough trot in the health stakes of late and will be keeping a keen eye on his latest charge.

Craig reckons Kembla's 1000-metre scamper might just be the tonic for Count On It to provide a bit of much-needed Christmas cheer.

"The city [races] are only 1200 and they're pretty hard races with the Magic Millions coming up so they're all trying to qualify for that," Craig said. "I'm surprised there's not more nominations for it [Kembla's race] actually.

"In a trial she was ridden along a bit, but gee she got to the line well. I'm looking forward to ... see where we can go with her," he said.

Nursing just half-a-dozen babies through his stable this season, Craig has his own theory on why two-year-old starters are down this season.

Just 15 are nominated for Kembla on Saturday, five of which are also entries for the two-year-old race at Rosehill on the same day.

"Maybe people are waking up to how the tracks are at the moment, they're lightning fast and it's very hard to get the two-year-olds over to the races," Craig said.

"They're running sensational times at places like Rosehill, but you want to them to pull up and continue on for a while."

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