Getting on the Plonka pays off for the punters

HE'S a four-year-old of great promise and now has his ticket booked for the $500,000 Country Championships race at Randwick in April.

Plonka, trained by Coffs Harbour's Warren Gavenlock lived up to his potential in the Country Championship Qualifier over 1420m in Grafton this afternoon.

Paying $4.20 for the win, the bay gelding, son of stallion Epaulette and dam Loving New, edged out the Matthew Dunn-trained Gracie Belle.

Elated with the win, Gavenlock said his stable would celebrate tonight and think later about plans of how to prepare Plonka for Randwick.

Prior to today, Plonka, who gave Gavenlock his first win in Sydney in November, held three wins from nine races, winning $108,000 in prize money.

Today the connections collect $150,000 from the win in Grafton.

"He will give it a shake too," Gavenlock said of Plonka's chances in Sydney. 

"It was disappointing for Coffs Harbour but it played well for us.

"We had those couple of quick back up runs, a heavy track run, a lot of people doubted Plonka could run the 1400m but I never did.

"The track drying, the alley and the extra couple of days really helped.

Jockey Rachael Murray said it was an honour to earn the ride. 

"It was a huge effort by him, the horse was perfect today," Murray said.

"I'm not going to lie the extension of the qualifier to today gave him another four days to recover.

"So everything worked out perfect and he's a good horse. I just love the horse and have so much faith in him so I didn't care where I was I just did my own thing.''

Gavenlock said the stable and connections will consider a run for Plonka in the lead-up to Randwick.

"He will certainly need something, we will go home and settle down and think about what we have to do,'' he said.

"We'll look at our options, have a good long talk with the owner and Rachael and take it from there. He'll give it a shake."

Even though Plonka went into the race having won a maiden Highway race win in Sydney for Gavenlock, he largely flew under the radar with tipsters given the huge favouritism that the Aiden St Vincent-trained Hellenism received prior to being scratched from the race yesterday. 

Both Plonka and Gracie Belle, will now represent the Northern Rivers Racing Association at the big race to determine the best in the bush. 

Murwillumbah trainer Matthew Dunn, who has won the three previous northern Country Championship qualifiers, remained optimistic that he will still have a chance at winning the big one in Randwick. 

"(She was) a little bit upset in the yard today and that probably followed through to the race, it's disappointing she didn't win, but full credit to the winner, she still gets her ticket to Randwick." 

With their places in the $500,000 Newhaven Park Country Championships Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick confirmed, both Plonka and Gracie Belle are $15 chances in TAB's market.