LOCAL HOPE: The Cathleen Rode trained Free Standing races away to win a TAB Highway Handicap race at Royal Randwick in December.
LOCAL HOPE: The Cathleen Rode trained Free Standing races away to win a TAB Highway Handicap race at Royal Randwick in December. Martin King / Sportpix

Free Standing wins Country Championships Final

COFFS Harbour trainer Cathleen Rode is about to head off on her first holiday in seven years with some extra spending money after Free Standing won the Country Championships Final at Royal Randwick.

Free Standing has won the $210,000 prizemoney that was on offer for winning the Country Championship Final (1400m) in a timely victory for the Northern Rivers District that has been affected by flooding this week.

The Equiano gelding is one of only three horses Rode has in work but they're all about to have a spell.

"They're all going on holidays after this because I'm going on holidays," Rode said post-race to the Seven Network.

Aided by a clever ride from Blake Shinn, who took advantage of barrier one, Free Standing shot through along the inside on the turn and safely held the late closers After All That and Not For Export.

It was a win that had many punters in Coffs Harbour roaring as their local hope caused a big upset paying $32.20 on the tote for the win and $7.50 the place.

After a win at Royal Randwick in a TAB Highway Handicap race in December, the four year-old is now two wins from two starts at Sydney's leading track and obviously loves the soft going.

With the biggest win of her training career, Rode was understandably excited.

"That's one off my bucket list. I'm pretty happy," she said.

The win made good her pre-race prediction of a finish in the first four.

"Extremely confident. He's been here before and I think he had a great opportunity," the trainer said.

Still in its infancy, Rode said the introduction of the Country Championships by Racing NSW provides a big boost for country trainers.

"It's a great concept for the country trainers as it gives us all the option of coming here, enjoying the scenery and evrything and winning a bit of money," she said.

For the moment though, the racetrack is the furthest thing on her mind.

"I said after today I'm going on holidays for a month and then I'll come back and I'll be nice and fresh."



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