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  • Provincial Racing NSW


PROVINCIAL-MIDWAY Championships joint second favorite Territory Express has already qualified for the $1m Final.

But the talented four-year-old’s trainer Paul Niceforo first has an even bigger target in mind.

That is the $4m Group 1 Doncaster Mile to be run at Royal Randwick on April 6 – a week before the PMC Final (1400m).

In announcing the Doncaster target, Niceforo is hoping to get a “free ticket” into the race by winning Saturday’s Group 2 Ajax Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens.

“I’ve had the Doncaster plan in mind for months now,” Niceforo said.

“But Territory Express has to win the Ajax to ensure he gets into the field.

“He is an up and coming horse, and deserves a crack at the Randwick ‘mile’.”

Territory Express (54kg) is currently 23rd in order of ballot for the Ajax, but seems certain to gain a start as 20 horses are permitted to run, and there are certain to be a number of withdrawals when acceptances are taken on Wednesday morning.

If he doesn’t secure an Ajax start, Niceforo is still keen to start Territory Express at the Rosehill meeting, but in the Benchmark 88 Handicap (1400m), where he also has 54kg.

Territory Express is currently sharing the second line of betting with Strait Acer and Shadows Of Love at $8 with for the PMC Final, with dominant Newcastle Qualifier Tavi Time the $2.80 favorite.

A son of Territories, Territory Express has raced 12 times for three wins and as many placings and created a big impression, with Zac Lloyd aboard, when he stormed home to land the opening Kembla Grange Qualifier (1400m) on February 29.

That race was for both eligible provincial and Midway trained horses.

Territory Express is one of only four horses Niceforo has in work, and is the only foal to date of his dam, the Sebring mare Miss Chattering, who was prepared by his close friend, Sunshine Coast trainer David Vandyke.

Miss Chattering won three of her six starts in Queensland before being retired, and Territory Express was her first foal in 2019.

She subsequently missed to both Sepoy and Duporth, and has not been to a stallion in the last three seasons.

“A friend of ours bred Territory Express, and we formed a syndicate to race the horse on lease,” Niceforo said.

“He is getting better with each preparation.”

Niceforo has had more than his share of health battles, having suffered two heart attacks and a stroke, and Territory Express’ form is undoubtedly giving him reason for much optimism.

The gelding broke through in a Newcastle Maiden (1400m) on September 15 last year at the Cup carnival, but his trainer suffered one of those heart attacks an hour before his second win at the same track a month later in a Benchmark 64 Handicap (1600m).

He was rushed to hospital, but told nursing staff he was determined to watch the race on his phone – and did so.

. HOOFNOTE: Should Territory Express win the Ajax Stakes on Saturday and make the Doncaster Mile field, RacingNSW chairman of stewards Steve Railton says under the conditions of the Provincial-Midway Championships, Niceforo will have to produce a veterinary certificate to the stewards’ satisfaction if he decides he doesn’t want to back him up a week later in the Final.

Story John Curtis, March 12, 2024 - Pics Bradley Photos

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