Art D'Amour wins Country Championship preview

Winning return: Ben Looker returns to the winner's stall with Art D'Amour after the gelding produced a stunning run to win Friday's Country Championship Preview at Scone.

Winning return: Ben Looker returns to the winner's stall with Art D'Amour after the gelding produced a stunning run to win Friday's Country Championship Preview at Scone.

ART D’Amour kept his unbeaten record intact when the Tamworth gelding swooped for a stunning win in Friday’s $20,000 Country Championship Preview Class 4 Handicap (1300m) at Scone.

The Cody Morgan-trained four-year-old gelding son of Excellent Art sprinted decisively down the middle of the spacious Scone track to beat Greg Bennett’s All Summer Long by a half length. Mark Schmetzer’s Whirlwind ascent was a long neck away third edging out Bennett’s Invienna.

The win was such a stylish victory his Tamworth trainer had no hesitation in naming the $150,000 Country Championship Qualifier (1400m) at Scone on Sunday, March 5 as his next assignment.

“I’m so proud of him,” Morgan said.

“He’s a lot better horse than I am a trainer. He’s training me.”

Morgan has spent many hours preparing the gelding for what is now a tilt at a rich Country Championship heat.

A debut win at Gunnedah was followed by victories at Armidale and then Newcastle, although those races were spaced with the gelding spelling after each win.

On Friday he resumed after having Christmas and New Year off following his November win at Newcastle.

“He’s been in work three months,” Morgan said.

“Just never been right. To come down here and do that over 1300m first up is amazing. His work hasn’t been that good and I didn’t think he trialled well.”

Jockey Ben Looker disagreed.

“I thought he trialled real good,” he said.

“Today he travelled well. Popped him out at the top of the straight and gave him a slap. Then I gave a squeeze.”

Art D’Amour responded to each urging with a paralysing sprint.

To pick up the “others” was impressive, Looker said.

“You’ll need a crowbar to get me off him,” he said.

Even Scone trainer Greg Bennett, who had three of the favourites – All Summer Long, Invienna and Sassaby – engaged in the race, extolled Morgan and Art D’Amour’s virtues.

“He looks such a nice horse on the way up,” Bennett said.

“He’s going to be hard to beat in the Country Championship Qualifier. He will be improved by that too plus it’s great to see for Cody. He deserves it after he’s been through all the stuff he’s had.”

Bennett said all three of his horses will still run in the March 5 CC Qualifier.

“Both All Summer Long and Invienna will be improved by that run,” he said.

“Sassaby has had a tough run first up too. All Summer Long is a very good horse. Greg (Ryan) said if he could have got out when he wanted he might have won. But that’s not taking anything away from Cody and Art D’Amour.”