GOLDEN TICKET: The Cathleen Rode trained Free Standing returns to scale with jockey Raymond Spokes aboard after qualifying for the Country Championship Final to be run at Royal Randwick on April 1.
GOLDEN TICKET: The Cathleen Rode trained Free Standing returns to scale with jockey Raymond Spokes aboard after qualifying for the Country Championship Final to be run at Royal Randwick on April 1. Adam Hourigan Photography

Free Standing books a ticket for Royal Randwick

WHEN the Country Championship Final is being raced at Royal Randwick on April 1, Coffs Harbour will have a local horse to cheer for.

On Monday in the opening qualifier for the big race in the big smoke, the Cathleen Rode trained Free Standing finished second at Grafton to book his spot in a race where the winner takes home a hefty $210,000.

VIDEO: Perfect Dare wins Country Championships Qualifier

While even-money favourite Perfect Dare toyed with the field down the straight to win by more than five lengths, jockey Raymond Spokes steered the Equiano gelding through a gap with a furlong remaining before the pair finished strongly to edge out Hotel Drive for the coveted second place finish.

Coffs Harbour trainer Cathleen Rode was thrilled when her four year-old booked a spot for the final.

"He's not high maintenance so if he pulls up okay we'll be there," Rode said.

"I was quite confident today (Monday). He's an honest, big horse and been working really well."

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