Milligan confident the chief can break maiden at Taree (Friday)

Local trainer Glen Milligan is very optimistic about Stratum Chief’s chances of breaking through for a win in the Ladies Day Sun 19th Feb Country Boosted Maiden Plate over 1300m at Friday’s Taree meeting.

It's a very competitive $30,000 race in which eight of the horses engaged - including Stratum Chief - have run at least one placing in their last two starts, but Glen Milligan's horse comes with a strong recommendation at what will be the three-year-old gelding's third run this campaign.

"I think he'll run well," Milligan said. "He's worked well and done everything right and I'm very pleased with him.

"He's just going to want a bit of luck from the wide alley. He's definitely going around despite the draw.

"There's not much else for him at the moment and he does jump well and go forward, so hopefully 'Bucko' (jockey Grant Buckley) can still be positive on him."

Bjorn Ironside, trained by Colt Prosser at Wauchope, and Stratum Chief filled the minor placings in a blanket finish to a 6 1⁄4 f maiden at Taree on January 9 and will again be among the main chances in this race.

Much More Torque finished too well for the rest back then, but Bjorn Ironside was only a head away in second and Stratum Chief nosed out in third.

Bjorn Ironside and Stratum Chef each carried 127lbs under the set weights conditions that day and have been assigned the same weight this time, but unlike then when they both drew towards the rail they are going to have to negotiate wider draws.

Two horses that also drew wide were scratched from the race soon after final acceptances, leaving Bjorn Ironside to start from 11 in a 14-horse field and Stratum Chief from the extreme outside.

That puts the pressure on jockeys Jeff Penza (Bjorn Ironside) and Buckley to ensure their horses at least get some cover if they are caught wide in the run.

Milligan said Stratum Chief, with only three career runs so far and a young horse, was still maturing, but had genuine ability.

"The trick is to get that maiden win and give them a bit of confidence," he said. "He's still a prep away from becoming the horse we know he can he's still trying to figure it all out, but he's just improved with each run and I expect him to improve again on Friday.

"He'll probably only have one or two more runs and then go for a spell. I'm hoping that this time next year he's a Country Championships horse."

Milligan also likes the chances of his six-year-old mare Flash Point in the Kel Penfold Finance Country Boosted Benchmark 58 Handicap over 1000m.

"She's going super," he said. "Her last run, for a second at Taree, was very good.

"She just got held up a little bit coming to the turn and had to wait and then she got up on the fence and looked the winner, but the horse down the outside was too good for her on the day.

"I haven't had her long and I think she's already one of the most improved horses I've got here. I couldn't be happier with her going into Friday."

*Gates open 11am. Full bar, bistro, TAB and bookmaker facilities. And every paying patron and member will receive a drink voucher upon entry, to redeem a beer, soft drink or house wine.

If you're turning it into a four-day weekend off the back of Australia Day, Taree is the place to be for a great day out on Friday.

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