IT HAS been a long wait, but the day has finally arrived - and punters will be flocking to the Forbes Jockey Club in COVID-safe droves this Sunday to watch the 2021 Bankstown Sports Club Forbes Cup.
Given the current COVID-19 restrictions in place, the usual stellar crowd won't be travelling up from Bankstown for the occasion, but with $270,000 worth of prizemoney on the line there will be plenty on track to keep the punters happy and the atmosphere electric.
Forbes-based trainer Dennis Bush has one runner engaged in the meeting, while fellow local Barry Molloy has three.
When Bush spoke about the home meeting on Wednesday morning, he was pretty confident the track would allow for some even racing, and not be too much of slogfest, despite it currently being rated a Heavy 8.
"The track is in real good order, it can still handle a bit of rain and I reckon it will be rated Good on Sunday hopefully," he said.
Four-year-old gelding Hitman might be Bush's sole runner for the afternoon, but on best form he is certainly a decent shot to break his maiden despite a couple of poor runs since returning from a short spell.
"He (Hitman) had some good results a couple of months back, but then he got an injury and hasn't been at his best since; whether he improves or not we'll have to wait and see," said Bush.
Pleasingly for country trainers like Bush, the meeting has significantly more prizemoney than previous editions; upping the quality and attracting top horses - which give the Forbes Jockey Club a chance to show what it's made of.
"Showcase meetings are hard to get, so it's great to get this prizemoney and hopefully we can get it again next year," Bush said.
In the $50,000 Bankstown Sports Club Forbes Cup, to be run over 1600 metres, it's anyone's race; with top trainers like Kody Nestor, Michael Mulholland, Nick Olive, Kylie Kennedy and Brett Cavanough all big chances of securing some handy country prizemoney.
Kennedy, whose stables are based in Narromine, has been on fire of late with four wins since June 13 - and her mare Wild Rocket looks to be a great bet.
The backmarker will jump from Barrier 1 has been lumped with just 56.5kg, giving the four-year-old every chance to fly home down the straight with Matthew Cahill aboard.
The topweight (61kg, though an apprentice could be engaged) for the Cup is Mulholland's talented gelding Reward Seeker; whose impressive resume has six wins from 16 starts.
He prepared for this with a trial win on a Heavy track at Cowra a fortnight ago and will face some stiff competition from the highly rated Scone horse Nomoathaj, who won some pretty handy races in New Zealand before moving to the William Freedman stable.
In the Col Hodges 50 Year Anniversary Showcase Maiden, a sprint affair; the smartly-bred Sizzling Star, a two-year-old filly out of Sizzling and Chestnut Star, looks to be an intriguing prospect.
If she can find a good spot from Barrier 6, the filly can look to dictate the race from up front.
The gates will fly back for the first race at 12.20pm, with the Forbes Cup scheduled for 3pm.