Julian Rock, Al Mah Haha first into finalSunday 16 February 2020
Julian Rock will become the first French horse to run in the NSW Country Championship final after winning the opening heat at Moruya.
Trained by Jean Dubois, Julian Rock beat Al Mah Haha to win Sunday's 1400m-qualifier under comeback jockey Jean Van Overmeire.
The Tash Burleigh-trained Al Mah Haha also qualifies for the final, his second chance after being scratched at the barriers last year.
Dubois said he now had to work out a plan to get Julian Rock to the final on April 4 in the best condition and decide whether he should run again.
"I have to keep him fresh and happy for six or seven weeks," Dubois said.
"He loves the soft track. His form in France on soft was good."
Julian Rock came to Australia as a maiden winner in France and has now won three races here.
Apprentice Van Overmeire has had more than his share of injuries over the past year but followed a victory for his boss Anthony Cummings on Saturday aboard Vegadaze at Randwick with Sunday's win.
"I have to say a massive thank you to Jean for being so loyal," he said. "He has been a great supporter.
"Julian Rock really let rip there and found a couple of lengths very quickly."
Burleigh was equally happy to be taking Al Mah Haha back to Randwick after his 1-1/2 lengths second to Julian Rock.
"Hopefully he behaves himself this time," she said.
"It was a massive run. He was caught wide and flushed wide on the turn."
Sunday's meeting was transferred to Moruya with Nowra waterlogged after heavy rain last week.